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Honorary commanders assume command

HOLLOMAN AFB, N.M. -- Most of Holloman's military units get new commanders this week, some with no prior military experience at all.

Of course, the new commanders won't be issuing any orders anytime soon. They're honorary commanders, citizens of Alamogordo, whose full-time responsibilities range from bank president to peace officer.

The 49th Fighter Wing's 2007 Honorary Commander Program gets underway with a kick-off reception Jan. 9 at the Officers Club.

The purpose of the program is to build relationships between Holloman's leaders and community leaders.

During their year as honorary commanders, off-base people are invited to activities and events by their Holloman counterpart, and in return, invite Holloman's commanders to participate in community events such as club meetings, parades, ceremonies and social functions.

"We are quite literally stepping into a different world and what can be unfamiliar and daunting territory," remarked Mr. Greg Stephens, co-owner of Pioneer Title in Alamogordo. He was the honorary commander for the 7th Fighter Squadron last year and is moving to the 8th Fighter Squadron this year because of the 7th's inactivation.

"I personally saw how some of the guys were shy and wanting to know what I was all about and could I be trusted that if they said something, it wouldn't be misinterpreted or repeated out of context," Mr Stephens said. "Once they learned I had no agenda other than friendship, they opened up more readily and we became friends."

"This past year, we learned in vivid detail the military is a very close-knit family, as it has to be in order for the family units to survive the constant moves and TDYs," he said.

"The honorary commanders program gives us (from downtown) the chance to learn, understand, participate, and even become a part of this tight-knit family. It's an opportunity we should all take advantage of," Stephens asserted.

"I'm looking forward to another great year participating in this excellent program," he announced.

"To say my wife and I have enjoyed our time would be an understatement as we have made friendships that will last a lifetime and learned much more about the lives (Holloman's) great men and women lead on a daily basis.

"I'm just thrilled to be able to continue in a program that -- if utilized -- helps bring an understanding of both worlds and helps to dispel a lot of rumors."

Another honorary commander is Mr. Bill Burt, owner of Burt Broadcasting. He is paired with Lt. Col. Andra Clapsaddle, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

"It's a great program," Mr. Burt said. "It allows Holloman and community people to connect at an 'intimate' level. It also provides much help for downtowners who want to become more educated about Holloman."

"For me, a highlight is getting to meet a lot of great people on base," Burt went on. "Not many people downtown get to do that. I'm amazed by the professionalism I see (at Holloman) - regardless of (the Airmen's) origin or age - it's continually amazing."