Tampa Civic Leaders take flight to explore three unique Air Force missions

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MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – 28 of Tampa’s influential business owners, chamber of commerce members, program managers and civic leaders took flight with the 6th Air Refueling Wing to explore three unique Air Force missions.

Beginning at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida on April 11, 2024, the group participated in a multi-base field trip to strengthen relations and bolster community support.

Civic leader programs are meant to educate local leaders on the similarities and differences of military and civilian operations and serve as a way to reach and inform the public on each base’s unique missions. This year, the Tampa group traveled to Offutt AFB, Nebraska and Eglin AFB, Florida.

“The support we receive from our community is truly remarkable,” said Col. Adam Bingham, 6th ARW commander. “There are many areas within our mission that we couldn’t complete without the help of our community partners. These trips offer a chance to give back to them and deepen their understanding of our mission. Their firsthand experiences enable them to better communicate the importance of our work to the Tampa community.”

During the first portion of the trip, civic leaders observed a KC-135 Stratotanker piloted by Bingham on the way to Offutt AFB.

In the boom-pod, the group laid beside Senior Airman Nathan Zelasko, 91st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, to witness aerial refueling and the talent of young airmen working in mission essential roles.

“What a wonderful experience and time spent with this awesome group,” said Jose Bello, Encore Bank community outreach officer. “It may surprise you, but I haven’t stopped talking about our experience.”

Once the group landed in Nebraska, the Tampa leaders received an in-depth tour of a RC-135S Cobra Ball and met with members of the 55th Wing leadership team to learn more about the Air Combat Command mission.

The following day brought the civic leaders to the 96th Test Wing located at Eglin AFB on April 12, 2024.

The 96th TW is responsible for operating 38 modified test aircraft and managing 120,000 square miles of over-water test ranges, plus facilities in six different states. The Tampa leaders were able to experience first-hand how the base executes developmental tests and evaluations to enable the warfighter to put weapons on target.

Upon their return to MacDill, leaders shared their gratitude for the opportunity.

“Thank you for this amazing experience,” said Kevin Preast, chief commercial officer of Tampa Bay Lightning. “I am very grateful to have been a part of this trip.”

MacDill AFB will continue to uphold their relationship with local civic leaders to increase public awareness of missions, policies, and programs of the 6th ARW and the Department of Defense.