KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The 403rd Wing hosted 20 Keesler Air Force Base honorary commanders for a tour March 8 educating local civic leaders about the Air Force Reserve and its mission.
The wing’s mission includes the only weather reconnaissance unit in the Department of Defense as well as tactical airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation and agile combat support.
Col. Jennie R. Johnson, 403rd Wing commander, welcomed the group.
“The support we receive from our Gulf Coast community is outstanding,” said the commander. “We can’t do our mission without the support of the community and our employers. That’s why the honorary commander program is so important, so we can further build these relationships, as well as provide an opportunity to show our partners what our reservists contribute to the mission.”
The honorary commander program matches civic leaders with Keesler commanders to foster relationships with the local community and build a better understanding of how both the military and local community can benefit from one another. As part of the program, the base showcases various organizations to highlight the different mission sets on Keesler.
The 403rd Wing is a tenant unit on Keesler and is part of 37 wings and nearly 70,000 reservists that make up the Air Force Reserve Command. The wing consists of 1,500 reservists who come to Keesler from more than 30 states to serve.
“It’s such an incredible opportunity to be part of the honorary commander program and to be part of this tour,” said Marcia Crawford, Harrison County Development Commission and 403rd Wing Honorary Commander. “I wasn’t aware of all the missions the wing does. I had no idea that reservists came from so many states to work here. I’m impressed with everything that goes on at Keesler and the 403rd and the commitment reservists have to serve.”
During the tour, the honorary commanders received briefings about the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters, 815th Airlift Squadron and 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron missions.
“The 403rd Wing does many great things for the community and people don’t always realize everything that the unit does,” said Susan Hunt, Biloxi School Liaison and 81st Training Wing honorary commander.
Although, Hunt said she knew about the Hurricane Hunter mission, she was surprised to learn about some of the other wing missions and opportunities.
“I was not aware that the 403rd Wing dropped supplies or had the medical mission; it was all very interesting,” she added.
The honorary commanders were also briefed on the 815th AS mission. The unit transports supplies, equipment and personnel in and around a theater of operation. The unit flies 10 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, which can operate from dirt strips and are the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas. The 36th AES, which became part of the wing in 2016, showcased their mission and equipment during a static display on the back of a WC-130J Hercules. The squadron’s mission is to retrieve and transport patients and provide time-sensitive critical care while in the air. The patients might come from military operations, humanitarian assistance or disaster response. Almost 90 percent of the Air Force’s aeromedical evacuation capability resides in the Air Reserve Component, allowing Airmen to bring experience from their civilian jobs to provide medical care for military and civilian personnel.
The event concluded with a local flight on a WC-130J Hercules, the aircraft used by the 53rd WRS, better known as the Hurricane Hunters. The unit flies 10 of these aircraft to conduct reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather weather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve the center’s forecasts and storm warnings.
“The flight was great and everyone was so gracious and made me feel so welcome and they worked so well together, like a close knit family. The tour was a great experience,” said Crawford.