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general-harris and gregory-melikian
by Capt. Gerardo Gonzalez 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/12/2010 – LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Sixty five new honorary commanders joined the 56th Fighter Wing after being inducted in a ceremony recently in Club Five Six, as part of a program designed to strengthen relationships between the base and local communities.

The Luke AFB Honorary Commanders Program partners unit commanders and others in leadership positions with civilian business and community leaders from the Phoenix metropolitan area.

During the two-year term, military commanders are encouraged to get to know their honoraries and invite them to their units for tours and special events and vice versa. This allows the honorary commanders the opportunity to learn about Luke AFB and the military commanders to learn about the civilian community.

“During the next two years you’re going to meet some fantastic Airmen,” said Brig. Gen. J.D. Harris, 56th Fighter Wing commander, during the ceremony. “These are the sons and daughters that come out of American communities, and with these sons and daughters we defend the nation.”

General Harris said that the military does what it does, so business and community leaders can do what they do. The military protects national freedom and this in-turn enables business leaders, like those appointed as honoraries, to run the organizations that help drive the nation’s economy and maintain the American quality of life.

“The relationship between the local community and the base is pivotal,” he said.

The general also said the honorary commanders program can be a rewarding experience and encouraged the military commanders and their honoraries to get involved with each others’ organizations to reap the benefits.

“I’m really honored to be part of the program,” said Yvonne Pascoe, Marriott Corporation sales manager in Glendale. “I look forward to doing whatever I can do to give back.”

Mrs. Pascoe will serve as an honorary commander to Maj. Dominic Clementz, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander. She said that Marriott Corp. is always looking for ways to give back to the community, and the honorary commanders program can serve as a good avenue for her to do so.

The chairman of Fighter Country Partnership, Luke’s main advocate organization in the civilian community, called on all honoraries to get fully involved in the program.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” said Charley Freericks, FCP chairman of the board. “It’s an amazing opportunity because Luke is an amazing place.”

Mr. Freericks called Luke a special place with a special group of people that live by the core values of integrity, service before self and excellence.

“Get involved because it will be a life-changing experience,” Mr. Freericks said during his ceremony remarks. “It will build a sense of pride in the Air Force, a sense of pride in America and give you insight into the great military machine here at Luke.”

Mr. Freericks praised the outgoing group of honoraries for their involvement in the past two years, and he also gave kudos to alumni honorary commanders for their continued support for the men and women of Luke AFB.

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