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H. Wayne Roberts and Jack Pulley: Base prepared for new tanker mission

  • Published Sunday, May 12, 2013, at 12 a.m.

As the largest air tanker base in the world, McConnell Air Force Base is a dominant stakeholder in the Wichita area. In addition to being an important economic engine, with an annual local economic impact of $619 million, the base has been the recipient of numerous awards since it began operating in 1941.

McConnell has received 61 awards in the past 16 months. That’s more awards than the other 18 Air Mobility bases combined. These awards are an important acknowledgment of the caliber of those who lead this vital installation.

The Air Force will make an important decision later this month in determining the placement of a formal training unit and a first main operating base to support the newest tanker, the KC-46A. One of two U.S. bases to be named a finalist in both categories, McConnell is a strong contender for either of these programs.

At the beginning of this selection process, the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce brought together area leaders to form a coalition to disseminate information about the selection process and to determine how best to promote McConnell and the Wichita area to Air Mobility Command leadership. The chamber’s Tanker Task Force (composed of representatives from the cities of Derby and Wichita, Friends of McConnell, Go Wichita, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, Sedgwick County, the Wichita Independent Business Association and the Wichita chamber) has been vigilant in its efforts to ensure the KC-46A tanker mission calls Wichita “home.”

Last August, Tanker Task Force representatives met with Air Force leaders in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate their support of McConnell. After the announcement that McConnell was a finalist in both categories, task force representatives met in April with Air Mobility Command leaders at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to pledge the continued support of the Wichita and Derby communities for McConnell and their airmen.

The Tanker Task Force facilitated and promoted the public information meeting that was hosted by the Air Force last month in Wichita as part of their selection process. We were pleased and impressed when more than 300 area residents showed their support for McConnell’s mission during that evening event.

McConnell has always been a strong partner for south-central Kansas. The possibility of gaining a new tanker program is significant to our area in countless ways. The new construction associated with the development of these programs ranges from $63 million to $193 million.

Along with the military personnel who will relocate to Wichita to support these programs, their spouses will be a valuable addition to our workforce, and we will welcome their children to our school systems. We’ll also gain new residents who are invested in improving the livability of our community by volunteering their services in our nonprofit organizations, supporting the arts, participating in youth and adult sports programs, and becoming members of our area attractions.

We applaud the Air Force’s selection of McConnell as a tanker program finalist, and we commend McConnell leaders for continuously demonstrating that they are leading professional men and women who are proud of their past accomplishments, poised for growth and well-prepared for additional responsibilities.

H. Wayne Roberts is chairman of the Tanker Task Force. Jack Pulley is president of the Friends of McConnell.

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