Guest Writer: Jackie Sexton, vice president of programs and events

Over August 19-20, 2015, a select group of Salt Lake Chamber members traveled to Fort Worth, TX. Among the community civic leaders were Terry Buckner, past chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors, and Brian Garrett, Military Affairs committee chair. The trip was organized by Col. Bryan Radliff of the 419th Fighter Wing.

Wednesday:

Our trip began at Hill Air Force Base as it will be the new recipient of a fleet of F-35 planes. Lt Col George Watkins commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron and one of the first F-35 pilots stationed in Utah provided us with an insider’s look at the planes and shared his excitement for next month’s arrivals.

After which we boarded a KC-10 refueling plane from Travis AFB in California that flew us to NAS Fort Worth JRB, where Maj. Gen. Richard Scobee, the 10th Air Force commander greeted us. His command includes all fighter, bomber, special operations, rescue, airborne warning and control, fighter and bomber flying-training missions, combat air operations battle staff, remotely-piloted aircraft, space, and cyber units in the Air Force Reserve Command.

Maj. Gen. Scobee talked about the benefits of being a reservist and staying combat ready. Their pilots average 25 years of experience compared to 10 years on the active side of the Air Force.  Because of corporate employers, reservists work full time in the private sector and drill on the weekends.

Thursday:

In the morning we toured Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company, to view an F-35 in production at various stages. For security purposes we were not allowed to take photographs, however I will never forget seeing the mile long production line for these amazing planes. At the end we were given a photo opportunity with the first F-35 bound for Hill AFB.

After the tour we boarded the KC- 10 plane returning to Utah, and as passed Las Vegas learned we would have some midair guests needing to refuel. Next thing we knew two F-16s and two F-35s from Nellis AFB in Las Vegas connected to the KC-10’s refueling arm – the “boom,” to refuel.

During the flight I had the opportunity to speak with one of the pilots of the KC-10. He told us he worked as a traffic control operator during the week and flew for the Air Force Reserve on the weekends. The Reserves allowed him to put down roots, keep his family in California and still serve his country when called on.

So what did I learn from this trip?

How important the civilian soldier is. As a nation we need their type of dedication.

The men and women who work in our guard and reserve units throughout our country are not only working and living among us, they also spend their weekends and summer vacations drilling and refining their skills. They do this in order to stay combat ready in case they are called to serve and protect.

Even though I’ve never served in the military, I believe as member of Utah’s business community we can support the men and women who do. Think about hiring a guard or reservist, support local events that provide services or raise funds for reservists in need and most importantly, take the time to thank them for all that they do for us.

I would like to thank everyone involved in this trip especially, Col. Bryan Radliff, Kari Tilton, Bryan Magna of the 419th and Julie Schmidt of the 388th for their attention to detail, ability to keep us on time and out of trouble.

To find out more about the Salt Lake Chambers Military Affairs Committee, visit www.slchamber.com/military.

Check Out Photos from the Trip Below