Fighter Country Partnership is proud to feature Bill Pupo, Adjunct Faculty at Rio Salado College in Public and Business Administration. He is an alumni member of the Honorary Commanders Program and currently a member of the Blue Blazer Squadron of Fighter Country Partnership. Mr. Pupo was assigned to the 56th Operations Group at Luke Air Force Base from 2000-2002.
• Over 30 years in city management including City Manager of Spokane, Wash., Surprise and Chino Valley, Ariz.
• Currently Adjunct Faculty at Rio Salado College in Public and Business Administration
• Consulting to private business, government and community events
• Undergraduate Degree from Washington State University
• MBA from Gonzaga University
• Fighter Country Partnership
• Blue Blazer Squadron and BBS Life Reserves
• Yes For Dysart Political Action Committee Chair in Support of the Dysart Override
Board member and volunteer for the:
• Dysart Education Foundation
• Surprise Sundancers
• AZ Cactus League
• Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce Board member
• Participated in the organization of the Blue Blazer Squadron founding committee
From his perspective:
I’ve had the privilege of being an honorary commander at two Air Force Bases: Fairchild Air Force Base in the late 1990’s in Spokane, Wash., and Luke Air Force Base from 2000-2002. I was assigned to the 56th Operations group at Luke Air Force Base.
The experiences and emotions of being an Honorary Commander are many and difficult to put into words. When you see the young Airmen (the word “Airmen” includes both men and women), you note the courage and sacrifice they make of their lives to serve and protect our country. When you see spouses, partners and children of Air Force personnel you try to understand all they feel and what they experience being in the Air Force.
Being an Honorary Commander provided me firsthand opportunities to observe and support the men, women and families of Luke Air Force Base through volunteerism in Fighter Country Partnership, the Honorary Commanders 2-year tour, as an alumnus, and a member of the Blue Blazer Squadron. It provided me a huge opportunity to give back to base personnel and families in a way that allows me to express my gratitude and appreciation for living in the greatest country in the world.
When asked by others what my most memorable time was as an Honorary Commander I can certainly cite visits to other Air Force Bases, mission briefings, base events with base personnel, the Air Show, the Air Force Ball and Base award ceremonies. What I do value and will remember most is shaking hands and visiting with base personnel and hearing that person’s service and assignments in the Air Force.
During the Fighter Country Partnership annual meeting, we had an Air Force captain as a guest speaker who talked about living on the edge of life and death in a successful mission to save fellow military comrades in the Afghanistan Mountains. These conversations are heartwarming and pointed. These conversations tell me about the Air Force member and their sacrifice and commitment to protecting our nation.
While I could discuss many memorable experiences as an Honorary Commander and Blue Blazer such as riding in the belly of a KC-10 Extender aircraft at Fairchild on a refueling mission; site visits to other bases; receiving my call sign “Eagle” during a trip to Nellis AFB, Las Vegas; receiving an F-16 orientation flight; serving food at base holiday functions; soliciting prizes for the Fighter Country Blue Blazer golf tournament fund-raiser; participating in the Fiesta Bowl Parade walking with the inflatable U.S. Flag; observing the “Haboob Havoc” (bombing competition on the Barry M. Goldwater Range); and attending base briefings.
Members of the Blue Blazer Squadron on their annual charge visiting Nellis AFB, Las Vegas.
The BBS visit the Barry M. Goldwater Range to view A-10 Warthogs from Davis-Monthan AFB and F-16 Fighting Falcons from Luke AFB drop bombs and strafe. The day began with beautiful sunny skies and quickly turned into semi-haboob status as the wind and dust picked up. In fact visibility was so poor the event was shut down early. All in it was a fantastic day!
One very fun and memorable event in particular I will never forget was being invited to participate in a “dining in.” A “dining in” is a formal (black tie) military ceremony for members of a unit which includes dinner, drinking and other events to foster camaraderie and esprit de corps. A unit’s dining-in consists of only the members of the unit, with the possible exception of the guest(s) of honor. Some dining in events get very creative.
Prior to this particular “dining in” event, the Command Chief provided me a retired military fatigue uniform. I asked, “But what about the formal black tie?” He told me, “this dining in wasn’t that type of dining in.” Upon arriving at the hangar where the dining in was taking place, I was asked to assist in checking in the attending Airmen and guests. Much to my surprise, they all checked in wearing military gear that bore resemblance to Halloween or the American Epic movie “Animal House” starring John Belushi. These guests came armed to the hangar with water cannons, water pistols, water balloons and other 5-14 age range toys of fun to accommodate water weaponry. Without going into further details–as this event, I believe, was classified “TOP SECRET”– declarations of engagement were made throughout the evening and battle lines drawn as all 500 or more of us deployed throughout the hangar in water warfare. Our bonds in combat and dining were strong throughout the evening with food, drink, minor attempts at speeches of encouragement and tactical exercises.
What I’ve learned through the Honorary Commander and Blue Blazer opportunities is not only the importance of Luke AFB in preparing and training the best F-16 and F-35 combat pilots in the world but its importance of preserving and protecting freedoms throughout the world. Luke’s engagement in world events is enormous. Through the leadership of the LAFB commanders over my past 15 year’s involvement, the base has established a strong presence in our community and around our region.
I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the many activities of FCP and the BBS and we are especially fortunate to have such a strong organization that is a model for other communities in supporting their military installations. I’ve met many fine, quality volunteers passionate about their support of the LAFB and its men, women and families. They would agree with me that we have so much more to do to support these base members, the capacity and enhancements of the base. I’m thankful I was asked to become involved and volunteer in support of the men, women and families of LAFB.
Mr. Ron Sites, President and Executive Director of Fighter Country Partnership stated, “Bill Pupo has been a staple in the West Valley for decades now supporting amazing and important initiatives. The time, energy and passion Bill puts into Luke and the Blue Blazers clearly demonstrates that one of his greatest passions (if not his greatest) in the West Valley is Luke AFB.”