Honorary Commander Feature: Kathy Knecht

Kathy Knecht

Kathy Knecht

Fighter Country Partnership is proud to feature Kathy Knecht, an alumni member of the Honorary Commanders Program and currently a member of the Blue Blazer Squadron of Fighter Country Partnership. Ms. Knecht was assigned to the 607th Air Control Squadron at Luke Air Force Base from 2010 to 2012 and is a highly engaged and influential community leader.

Kathy has served as Executive Director of Leadership West, President of the West Valley branch of the American Association of University Women; Vice President of the West Valley Arts Council; and Founder of the Rancho Santa Fe Mommy Co-op. She is currently serving in her 10th year as an elected member of the Peoria Unified School District’s Governing Board, and is the President of the Board for the Arizona School Boards Association. She is the Vice Chairman on the Peoria Chamber of Commerce Board and a Blue Blazer, serving to support the airmen and their families at Luke Air Force Base.

Among these and other adventures, she has been a Girl Scout Leader since 2001 and has recently earned a Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies at ASU, in which she integrated the disciplines of education and politics in her efforts to make Arizona and the world a better place. Kathy has been married to Tom Knecht, a SW Valley business owner, for 23 years. They live in Peoria and have two daughters who graduated from Cactus HS and are now attending ASU.

When asked what it was like being an Honorary Commander at Luke AFB, she remarked, “I had an extra special experience as an Honorary Commander because I was paired up with two different Lieutenant Colonels in the 607th Air Control Squadron that doubled my exposure to amazing leadership at Luke. I was able to attend their change of command ceremonies, and I was made to feel a part of the squadron. I was welcomed by the 607th, invited to their family events and honored with a permanent memento of my participation – one in their office, one in mine.”

Kathy explained what she learned about the base and the U.S. Air Force as an Honorary Commander.

“I have no military experience of my own or in my family, so the opportunities were new at every turn. While I have always respected and admired those who serve, I was never able to fully understand or appreciate the culture until spending time with the airmen on and off base and serving as an HC. Having personal interactions with airmen and officers added so much to my perception of servicemen and women and only increased my understanding and admiration.”

Reflecting on some of her most memorable times as an Honorary Commander, she explained,

“Being allowed to participate in the change of command ceremonies, for both my squadron commanders in the 607th and the 56th Fighter Wing Commander was truly humbling and awesome. I was very aware that the opportunity to be there was a truly special privilege that I do not take lightly.”

Kathy Knecht

Kathy Knecht, Bruce Larson, Mary Jo May and Patrick McDermott, all Blue Blazers, march in the Fiesta Bowl Parade carrying the U.S. Flag balloon.

The Honorary Commanders program is designed to promote mutual partnerships with the local community and to promote a better understanding of the important Air Force mission. Its goal is to gain positive public opinion with influencers.
Kathy explained how this program impacted her.

“At the time that I served, I was the Executive Director of Leadership West. I believe my participation perpetuated and strengthened the relationship between the base and the West Valley, providing Leadership West class members access and information about the base, its leaders and its mission.”

“While I am no longer at LW, the relationship between the entities remains strong. I’ve stayed in contact with my squadron commanders and the airmen I met during my two years, and have gone on to participate as a Blue Blazer. In that role, I’ve been able to share my civilian experience and advice about education and civic engagement with officers as a speaker and in the “speed mentoring” activities. I also got my commander to take part in the LW Class XX! I am an outspoken cheerleader for Luke, its personnel and the HC program.”

An active participant of the Honorary Commanders program and now member of the Blue Blazer Squadron, Kathy participated in many change of command ceremonies, base tours including the Barry M. Goldwater Range tour, flown F-16 simulators, attended dining outs, enjoyed the Haboob Havoc bombing competition events, awards dinners, family picnics, air shows, speed mentoring events and as well as HC induction ceremonies.

Mr. Ron Sites, President of Fighter Country Partnership, says of Kathy:

“When you pull up the biography and role that Kathy plays within our community, it makes us very proud to see how she plays a strong part in supporting FCP and Luke AFB. She has also managed to get the BBS Squadron recognized on National TV…Awesome!!!”

Kathy Knecht

Kathy Knecht getting a tour of a life support shop trying on the G-suit and helmet.

Kathy Knecht on her experience:

“I took advantage of the flight simulator and participated whenever I could in the unique and thrilling experiences offered during my term. I have made great friends and valuable contacts with other HCs and later, Blue Blazers. It has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences I’ve had as a community leader.”

Kathy Knecht

Kathy Knecht, (middle) with Dustin Jones and Mary Jo May, taking a tour of the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

Kathy’s support to the base includes being a part of the largest Fighter Country Partnership fund-raising event of the year–the annual FCP golf tournament. She was on the golf committee. She also volunteered for the Moving Vietnam Wall display, assisted as a sponsor recruiter for the annual awards banquet, helped with the 2015 air show selling coins, participated as a speaker and mentor to the airmen at Luke.

“Being a Blue Blazer gives one the opportunity to give back to our service men and women and to maintain the relationships among other HCs and BBs and with Air Force personnel that were cultivated as an HC. Fighter Country Partnership shines a light on how integrated and mutually beneficial the relationship between the base and the broader community really is.”

Kathy Knecht

Kathy Knecht and her daughter, Olivia and husband, Tom, help out in showing support for the military during the 2014 Fiesta Bowl Parade.

“I feel so very privileged to have been given this opportunity. Anyone who is given the chance should jump at it, and then, commit to participating 100%, because the experiences and the education are life-changing.”

For more information on the 607th Air Control Squadron visit the Luke website

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