Community Supports Team Pope

Col. Timothy Zadalis, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander, talks with Robert Grover (left), Embarq Chairman, and Judge Jim Ammons, North Carolina superior court, during the 43rd Operations Group Honorary Commanders Day flight April 4. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Jon LaDue

Col. Timothy Zadalis, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander, talks with Robert Grover (left), Embarq Chairman, and Judge Jim Ammons, North Carolina superior court, during the 43rd Operations Group Honorary Commanders Day flight April 4. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Jon LaDue

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- About 32 local civic leaders were treated to a day of tours, briefings and a C-130 orientation flight last week. Each of them - honorary commanders and members of the Pope Special Activities Committee -- said they had a wonderful day and that they had learned so much about Team Pope and what it takes to make the mission happen. 

Some people may wonder why we would do something like this when we have budget constraints, but the answer is simple. We do it to support the people who support us. 

The community surrounding Pope and Fort Bragg is one of the finest I've ever had the pleasure to see during my travels around the Air Force. There are so many people and organizations out there that support not only the base as a whole, but our individual members as well. Just look at the two groups who were here last week as an example. 

Our honorary commanders have integrated themselves with their respective units, and many have adopted the unit as their own. Several have sponsored cookouts for unit members, and at least one brought families from his unit out to his house for an Easter egg hunt and party. The PSAC has been one of our biggest supporters for many years, and has donated more than $20,000 for Pope functions and activities like the annual awards and our Rodeo team. 

One honorary commander, Mr. Don Price, received the Air Mobility Command Distinguished Citizen Award in recognition of the support he has provided for Team Pope over the past year. 

But they aren't the only ones who provide support for our Airmen and their families. Fayetteville Cares is a community initiative set up to provide charitable support to military personnel and their families before, during and after deployments. They partner with support programs throughout the community to get people the help they need when they need it. 

A new program, Operation Welcome Home, is being sponsored by the Fayetteville Regional Association of Realtors and the Home Builders Association of Fayetteville. They try to come to the base to welcome home members returning from deployments, and are presenting them with Operation Welcome Home coins as a their way of saying "thank you" to Airmen, Soldiers and their families. 

Local businesses have shown their support by providing military discounts, and in some cases we've been offered free tickets to entertainment venues. Within the last few months, we've passed out tickets to Team Pope members for the Fayetteville Fire Antz and Carolina Hurricanes hockey games, and for NASCAR races. Next week several of our Airmen will be fishing courtesy of Warriors on the Water, a function started by a retired Air Force member and sponsored by local, regional and national companies that team Airmen with professional fishermen for a day of fun at Jordan Lake. 

The bottom line is this community is like few you will ever be fortunate enough to see during your travels. Residents of Fayetteville, Spring Lake and other communities around the base epitomize the idea of southern hospitality in all respects - they make it known they are here for us. When the time comes for my family and I to leave, I can guarantee one thing - a piece of our hearts will always be right here in North Carolina! 

As always, remember to always be SAFE, watch out for your WINGMAN, and don't be THAT GUY!