By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 08, 2019
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE, Colo. -- The 50th Space Wing always aims to maintain its close relationship with the local community and 2018 was no exception.
In February, Airmen from the 50th Operations Support Squadron donated 122 man hours sorting more than 11,000 pounds of food for needy families throughout the state with the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.
“It’s a huge impact,” said Joanna Wise, CSFBSC marketing and communications director. “To give perspective, they organized and sorted 9,000 meals that will be distributed throughout Southern Colorado.”
The event’s organizer, Staff Sgt. Yakov Kim, 50th OSS staff instructor, said the goal was to give back while strengthening partnerships.
“Schriever is a little out of the way,” Kim said. “To form stronger bonds with our community, we have to make an effort to get out there and say, ‘hey, we’re here, we appreciate you and we want to give back.”’
“We have such a great partnership,” she said. “Our Air Force members already do so much for our country so for them to take the extra step and give back locally … there’s nothing more inspiring.”
Later in February, members of Leadership Pikes Peak, a local organization working to build community-centric leaders in the Pikes Peak Region, visited the base to engage with base leaders. Attendees were able to gain a better appreciation of the base’s mission and economic impact, as well as share valuable leadership principles.
In March, base leadership welcomed 37 Colorado Springs community leaders at its annual State of the Base to strengthen relationships with their civic counter parts. During the State of the Base, leaders briefed 50th Space Wing missions, installation challenges and future opportunities.
“We are really in a new era and we have adjusted and adapted our mission to ensure we evolve our space and cyberspace superiority through innovation and collaboration,” said Col. Jennifer Grant, 50th SW commander. “Our mission is expanding.”
Later in March, more than 30 civilian vendors hailing from space, cyberspace and administrative disciplines, in the local community, gathered for a technology expo that served as an open forum for industry partners to showcase their latest mission-centric technologies.
Tech. Sgt. Lee Cobb, 25th Space Range Squadron, non-commissioned officer in charge of cyber operations, saw the event as crucial to maintaining important relationships.
“Nowadays, we work hand-in-hand with civilians and contractors,” he said. “I think these events are key because it helps foster a working relationship with people on the leading edge of technology.”
Nicholas Cakounes, one of the event vendors, said process improvement and sharing knowledge are key takeaways for many of the exhibitors.
“We have a great relationship with the military,” he said. “These shows give us a chance to meet our end users and get feedback. Collaboration is important for any kind of advancement in technology. We all have expertise and knowledge that needs to be shared.”
In May, Schriever AFB leadership participated in a Front Range Tribal Relations meeting in Colorado Springs. The purpose of the meeting was to build relationships with tribal leaders that have or may have an interest in the resources on the land encompassed by Front Range military installations.
“The mission and goal of these meetings is to become one team in collaboration with tribal members and installation commanders to identify and preserve tribal landmarks and interests,” Grant said.
“I believe that these meetings are good in that local commanders can meet with tribal officials, discuss a collective future and make arrangements on their level to benefit culturally both tribal and military interests,” said Steve Vance, Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, South Dakota. “Acknowledging the presence of Native Americans across America and preserving the culture is the ultimate benefit.”
The Airman and Family Readiness Center hosted a volunteer expo in May with the theme of community partnership. Ten non-profit groups and community organizations from throughout the Front Range attended, looking for individuals willing to step up and serve their community.
“I thought it was a great event to have all options in one area,” said Alexandra Finan, Children’s Literacy Center volunteer. “This is amazing for allowing members to match their skills with organizations and have dialogue with prospective groups like mine. I have also found resources I can pass on to my group and other groups.”
Several of the volunteers were impressed with the attendance and enthusiasm of the installation.
“The base staff and military members attending were engaged, attentive and asked great questions,” said Uriko Stout, Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Pikes Peak Region volunteer recruitment manager. “The military not only serve our country but look for ways to connect with their local community as well.”
In June, eight Schriever AFB firefighters teamed up with four Falcon fire department firefighters for a fire training exercise strengthening community ties and future response efforts.
“We’ve had mutual aid agreements for many years, and we’ve done some building familiarization, but haven’t trained together very often,” said Jeff Petersma, Falcon FD deputy chief. “This was just a great opportunity and I hope we get to come out here more in the future.”
With warm weather peaking in July, base leadership attended the 78th Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo parade, in downtown Colorado Springs. The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo supports service members and their families assigned to Front Range military installations.
As the school year loomed on the horizon, helping agencies, local community school representatives and other organizations hosted a back to school seminar at Schriever AFB in August.
Parents had the opportunity to register their children for school as well as learn about on and off base educational resources. Children received hands-on bus safety training, petted live falcons and watched a military working dog demonstration during the action-packed day.
Rebecca Howland, Ellicott Middle School principal, was on hand for the event.
“This is a fantastic event,” she said. “We love our Schriever families. This is my first year as principal and I really wanted to come meet the families. It’s important parents know we are committed to our military children and they will receive the best education in the best environment.”
The base invited Oscar Sladek, a Holocaust survivor, to speak during Days of Remembrance in August to share his and his family’s struggle.
“My Holocaust started at the age of five,” Sladek said. “Kids at school slowly started to distance themselves from me as their parents gave in to political pressure and threat of violence from the authorities.”
Senior Airman Adrian Ordonez, High Frontier Honor Guard guardsman at the time, took Sladek’s words to heart.
“It’s important to remember the events that happened and has reminded us of what prejudice, intolerance, and injustice can do to everyone,” he said. “It reminds us to not repeat what happened in the past. Mr. Sladek stressed the propaganda was so strong from Nazi Germany that even the best of people can turn and do the worst things.”
In mid-September, ten Schriever members volunteered as mentors at a Good Grief Camp event in Denver, Colorado.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors sponsored the two-day event, pairing mentors with children who lost family members to provide support, establish communication and maintain a military connection.
Airman Kalissa Vue, 50th FSS career development journeyman, said this was her first time attending a Good Grief Camp.
“My favorite part of the experience was building a connection with my mentee,” she said. “She lost her dad when she was a baby, so she didn’t remember anything about him, but she expressed to me she wished he was here. From the start, she was open and excited to do everything we had planned. It was a wonderful experience to be able to mentor her and I am looking forward to meeting with her and her mom for future events.”
In one of the more unusual events of the year, ten Schriever Airmen went head-to-head against Ellicott High School students and faculty members during a donkey basketball mini tournament in late September at Ellicott, Colorado.
Each team consisted of four riders who substituted in between two eight minute matches making up a 16 minute set. Schriever AFB’s ten-person team prevailed over the high school faculty members’ team in the first set with a score of 6-4, before moving on to the eight minute championship match.
The title match pitted the Schriever AFB team against the Ellicott boys team, which ultimately required a rock-paper-scissors tiebreaker, with the Ellicott teaming winning in the end.
In November, Schriever Airmen, from a variety of ranks and squadrons, participated in the annual Colorado Springs Veteran’s Day Parade in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Also, during this time, the Ellicott community honored veterans, including Schriever Airmen, during a Veteran’s Day assembly at Ellicott High School Nov. 9.
Throughout the year, Schriever members supported game festivities, including throwing out the first pitches and singing the national anthem for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, who held several Military Appreciation Nights.
Additionally, Team Schriever demonstrated their community support through volunteer opportunities, creating care packages for deployed Airmen and the annual Angel Tree program supporting base and Ellicott families in need.
In all, Schriever conducted 44 community events and 18 tours showcasing the base’s mission and facilities to more than 500 people. Additionally, base officials attended 32 civic meetings designed to strengthen the partnerships.
Strengthened relationships with the local community proved fruitful in tangible ways. Throughout the year, community partners championed improved access to the base, conducted surveys and identified potential projects to address concerns along Highway 94. Additionally, local civic leaders and community sponsors supported our monthly and annual events with donations, recognition awards, and refreshments.
As we head into 2019, the 50th SW will bolster community relations by continuing to host annual events like the State of the Base, partnering with Ellicott, as well as welcoming new opportunities on the horizon.
Editor’s note: Halle Thornton, Staff Sgt. Matthew Coleman-Foster and Cameron Hunt contributed to this article.