How Chapters Can Effectively Partner with Air Force, Space Force Bases and Organizations
October 27, 2023 | By Janelle Stafford
No two local Air & Space Forces Association chapters are alike, with each chapter taking on the missions and characteristics of the communities it serves. What is common throughout the AFA chapter structure, however, is the relentless pursuit of the AFA mission: to ADVOCATE and promote aerospace power as the backbone of U.S. national security; to EDUCATE the public on the critical need for unrivaled aerospace power and promote aerospace and STEM education; and to SUPPORT Airmen, Guardians, and the Families of the Total Air Force and Space Force.
AFA provides many opportunities for chapters to support this mission—particularly the Support pillar—through engagement with Active-duty bases, as well as Guard and Reserve units, which can benefit not only the Airmen and Guardians in uniform, but their families as well.
Here are three ways AFA Chapters can get involved in supporting their local military communities, as illustrated by three success stories our of AFA’s Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter, which participated in several social and educational events specifically designed to support the military family.
Military Family Appreciation
The Gerrity Chapter was able to coordinate military family attendance for a number of games at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, where the Los Angeles Dodgers’ AAA affiliate plays each season. A dedicated Military Appreciation Suite kept military families cool throughout the hot summer games, including those from the Tinker Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) who attended a game in mid-July. Gerrity made the events possible through its relationship with the Tinker Military & Family Readiness Center and the Exceptional Family Member Program.
F2 Grants & STEM Education Projects
Through AFA’s United Forces & Families (F2) grant worth $1,000 and a chapter contribution of $500, Gerrity Chapter members presented a $1,500 check to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) during a recent monthly Tinker AFB Community Action Team meeting. The funds are now being used to support Tinker’s EFMP/STEM Adventures program.
Attendance at the CAT meeting gave Gerrity leadership the opportunity to talk about the AFA mission and Gerrity Chapter projects and activities, which include a heavy emphasis in STEM education programs like AFA’s CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers.
“With the availability of the F2 grant funds, EFMP/STEM Adventure activities will be ongoing,” said Gerrity Chapter President Jeff James. “I can’t think of a better use of those funds,”
The Gerrity Chapter is part of a strong Oklahoma STEM network, partnering with a number of different organizations that reach across the entire state. Among Gerrity’s STEM partners are Oklahoma CareerTech, Starbase Oklahoma, and KidWind, an international competition that challenges students to use critical thinking skills to construct real renewable energy technology utilizing STEM disciplines.
“Aligning with STEM program opportunities like KidWind helps our Chapter expand our STEM outreach to different ages and populations,” James noted.
Partnership with an Air National Guard Wing
In partnership with the Oklahoma Air National Guard 137th Special Operations Wing, Gerrity Chapter members supported the Second Annual Zoo After Dark at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The zoo was reserved for 137th SOW Airmen and their families, who spent the evening browsing resource tables from a variety of vendors (including AFA) and, most importantly, enjoying the time with their families and friends. Approximately 1,300 people attended the activity-filled evening, which included an elephant show, a dance performance celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and a scavenger hunt that took participants to resource vendors and animal exhibits.
Support of (and participation in) activities in partnership with Tinker AFB, the 137th SOW, and others is nothing new to the Gerrity Chapter, however.
“Our partnerships with the 72nd ABW, the Air Logistics Complex, and the 552nd ACW, as examples, have been built over time, and are long and enduring,” James said. “Not only do we support these programs and activities, but we receive chapter support and active participation from them.”
There are a number of touchpoints any AFA Chapter can utilize to forge similar partnerships.
“As a starting point, we’ve built a strong Executive Committee by asking strategic partners to provide us with a representative willing to serve, and to help shape and guide the direction of our Chapter,” James said. “We have EXCOM members from JROTC, ROTC/Arnold Air Society, Civil Air Patrol, the 137th SOW, Tinker’s Exceptional Family Member Program, and others, and we meet monthly over breakfast to plan.”
Opportunities such as change-of-command ceremonies (and follow-up introductory meetings with incoming leaders); the presentation of scholarships and annual AFA awards to Airmen, Guardians, and civilian employees; building morale as a sponsor of the Annual 552nd Chili Cook-Off; or heritage events like the Chapter’s annual Toast to the Doolittle Raiders are just a few ways the Gerrity Chapter has built its relationship with Tinker, the ANG, and the entire military community as it works to execute AFA’s mission to Advocate, Educate, and Support.