Since 1918, when Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base was formed in the capital city at the very same spot that witnessed the state’s first flight, a link was forged between Montgomery and the military institution. For more than a century, a mutually beneficial relationship has grown and strengthened. The base contributes much to Montgomery, and the city welcomes members of the military and their families here, helping them become embedded in our community.
Maxwell-Gunter AFB plays a key role in our country; the programs, schools and activities within base walls are critical to national security, including Air University, which is the intellectual and leadership development center of the Air Force, as well as the 908th Airlift Wing, the Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate, the Defense Information Systems Agency and more than 40 other tenant units.
But it has an equally crucial part to play locally. Maxwell-Gunter AFB is truly our base and is an essential element of our area’s culture and prosperity. Base personnel boost our local economy simply with their presence, and Airmen stationed at the base (and their families) get behind and get involved with local events and charitable causes.
“The military community, whether active duty, reservists, guardsmen, civilian employees, or defense contractors are our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. They purchase or rent homes here. Their children go to school here. They attend the same churches, and they volunteer their time and donate money to local causes,” said Scott Rizer, the Chamber’s Vice President of Military Affairs. “They shop in the same stores, eat in the same restaurants, and go to the same entertainment venues, and hence, they contribute to the local sales and property tax base that supports local government.” Rizer also noted that many military personnel choose to retire here, therefore continuing to contribute to the economy.
NEED TO KNOW: HOMEBASE
Montgomery remains proud to have a military institution of Maxwell-Gunter AFB’s stature here. In 2015, the strong support provided to all who live and work at Maxwell earned the city the Altus Trophy, a prestigious national award. The city has also been named “The Best Hometown in the Air Force.” Lt. Col. Kurt Weissgerber outlined why. “Montgomery has a great understanding of the Air Force lifestyle and the challenges faced by military families and offers solutions to help with the transition to the area,” he said. “Neighbors and local community members are often pushing information and tips about the community even before military families arrive.”
He also pointed to the city’s options for entertainment and activity as positives. “There is a number of bars, restaurants and festivals downtown, which work well for military families,” he said. “Shows at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre are a great draw, and it is easy to spend a date night downtown.” There’s fun for the entire family too. “My daughters really enjoy the local zoo and the numerous parks with playgrounds, and school districts and other programs for kids are very understanding of short assignment cycles and make it easy to hit the ground running,” Weissgerber said.
Lt. Col. Joseph Harris joined the faculty at Maxwell’s LeMay Center in July 2022 and brought his wife Jennifer and their three young children to Montgomery with him. Jennifer Harris echoed Weissgerber, emphasizing the welcome she and her family instantly received when they arrived from San Antonio, Texas. “The people we have met are friendly and helpful, and don’t seem to mind all the newcomer questions we have had. The people have been very warm,” she said. “There is a different vibe and a real sincerity here that we didn’t have at previous assignments.”
The Harris clan is connecting by signing their oldest son up for Dixie League baseball and the younger two will soon be diving into swim lessons. Jennifer is getting plugged into the Maxwell Spouses Club. The family is also enjoying the options for fun outings they’ve taken advantage of so far. “We got to enjoy a Biscuits game recently and it was our children’s first time at a baseball game. We managed to catch a biscuit they shot out, and another patron got two game balls for our boys. With an experience like that, we are sure to attend many more games,” Jennifer said. “The area is beautiful with lots of history and things to do. We are looking forward to visiting the many museums and cultural events that Montgomery has to offer.”
CAP CITY CLEAN: “Montgomery is a lot cleaner than other places we have been to, and it is wonderful to walk around and not see litter everywhere. People seem to take pride in their houses and neighborhoods.” – Jennifer Harris, wife of Lt. Col. Joseph Harris
NEED TO KNOW: EDUCATION
As home to Air University as well as multiple schools and programs, Maxwell-Gunter AFB is the premier educational and intellectual development institution of the Air Force. Its classes and courses deliver a force of expertly trained and highly skilled Airmen committed to serving our country.
This school year, MEMS accepted 121 students through the pilot program, almost double the previous school year.
This emphasis on education and the pursuit of knowledge was recently taken a step farther. In April 2021, the on-base Maxwell Elementary/Middle School (MEMS) was approved by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) as the first site for a four-year pilot program that opens enrollment in the school to children of full-time, active-duty military who live off base. (Previously, enrollment at DoDEA schools in the United States was limited to children of military personnel residing on base.) “This pilot is to gauge how offering access to DoDEA schools to those who live off base will improve the morale, quality of life and readiness of the armed forces,” said Tracy Fidler, Communications Director for the Americas, Department of Defense Education Activity. She shared some updates on this important advancement in Montgomery’s ongoing dedication to supporting military families.
What’s the latest news on Maxwell Elementary/Middle School? MEMS is off to a great start for the 2022-2023 school year. We had 371 students enrolled in grades pre-K through eighth grade on the first day of school (August 8, 2022). We have an amazing staff who focus on ensuring our military-connected families get a high-quality education while meeting the specific and special needs of students who frequently move all over the world.
How has the program gone so far? The program has been a success here in MEMS in that we have maintained our high expectations and student achievement results. This year, we accepted more than double the number of students that we accepted last school year, and we continue to get applications daily.
How many additional students came to the school last year as a part of it? Last year, we allowed 67 students to attend MEMS through the pilot program. This school year, we have accepted 121 students through the pilot program.
Why was Maxwell chosen for the pilot program? The base command applied to be a part of the pilot program. Maxwell was the first to apply and the only pilot site implemented during school year 2021-2022. This year, we launched three new pilot sites; they are Camp Lejeune, NSWC Dahlgren and Fort Jackson.
How is this program benefiting military families? Family readiness is defined as families who are prepared and equipped with the skills and tools to successfully meet the challenges of the military lifestyle. The Department of Defense has long recognized the significance of family readiness and its impact on overall military readiness, performance, retention and recruitment.
The pilot supports family readiness in many ways, such as making it easier for parents to 1) meet with educators, 2) attend after-school events and 3) acquire before-and-after school care. It also gives parents an additional school option and increased flexibility to ensure they can choose the best option for their child.
At MEMS, the program helps the families feel a sense of continuity and confidence in the education their children receive. Many of these students have attended DoDEA schools stateside and across the world. All DoDEA schools provide the same curriculum and expect high standards for student success.
AREA-WIDE BENEFIT: The popularity of this program will draw service members to the area, which will benefit the community in many ways.
NEED TO KNOW: TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOLOGY
Thanks in large part to Maxwell-Gunter AFB’s presence here, Montgomery has grown to become a hub of military aviation advancements, information technology and cyber start-ups, with multiple companies headquartered here to support contracts and services for the Maxwell-Gunter IT complex. The bases are also crucial players in the Chamber’s TechMGM initiative, collaborating with the organization on multiple tech and cyber initiatives.
Charisse Stokes, Executive Director of TechMGM, outlined the contributions base personnel make. “The Maxwell-Gunter community has an immense amount of talent inside the gate, and that brings us a wealth of intellectual capital and information technology expertise as well as experience across several other demographics and areas,” she said. “Our military teammates can drive innovative solutions that can uplift the entire River Region.” Stokes noted the unique opportunities the base brings to business and education in our area by creating an environment that encourages diverse thought and allows for cross-pollination that can “spawn great ideas.”
In 2018, it was announced that the coveted fleet of F-35s Lightning II fighter jets would be “bedding down” in the capital city with the historic 187th Fighter Wing. For the last four years, the wing has been preparing for conversion that will push the entire area to new heights. Here’s a recap of the stratospheric stats associated with the F-35 and the latest news:
- The 187th Fighter Wing’s F-35 conversion is moving ahead in full force. The base is a flurry of F-35-related construction and real-world F-16 operations. Meanwhile, at Air Force bases across the country, roughly a tenth of the Red Tails pilots and maintainers are currently operating the F-35.
- In September 2022, the 187th broke ground on two new F-35 construction projects. The first, a $21 million base supply facility that will serve as the warehouse for $170 million in F-35 parts and equipment. The second is a $18 million F-35 simulator facility that will house eight advanced F-35 simulators.
- Over the next year, the 187th will begin construction on seven new facilities for F-35 maintenance and operations. In total, Dannelly Field will complete approximately $110 million in F-35-related facilities.
- The 187th will continue to fly the F-16 through the summer of 2023, while F-35 construction continues.
- The first of 20 F-35s are slated to land at Dannelly Field in December 2023.
There are currently seven F-35 projects in various stages of execution, and they represent $58.5 million of the 187th Fighter Wing’s $110 million F-35 base construction budget.
On June 27, 2022 the final decision was made that the 908th Airlift Wing would become the host for the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter Formal Training Unit (FTU). The first MH-139s are scheduled to arrive in early 2024, and 10 MH-139s and six simulators/training devices will arrive over the next several years. It is estimated that the student training will start in Fall 2026, with the possibility of at least 150 students per year. Right now, the wing is in the early stages of preparing both aircrew and maintenance personnel for the conversion. “The 908th Airlift Wing has had a very distinguished 50-year legacy of providing exceptional Tactical Airlift across the world when our country needed it the most,” said Col. Craig Drescher, Commander of the 908th. “We look forward to bringing that same level of exceptional performance and commitment to the DoD top priority mission of the MH-139A Grey Wolf.”
“There are more than 14,000 active-duty military, reservists, guardsmen, civilian employees and defense contractors whose jobs are associated with Maxwell-Gunter and Dannelly Field. The total economic impact of these various personnel incorporates three broad categories: the military organizations’ direct payrolls, the direct impact of other significant military expenditures like military construction and the indirect impact that comes from military personnel living and spending their income in the region. This Total Economic Impact amounts to more than $2.6 billion per year.” – Scott Rizer, Montgomery Chamber’s Vice President of Military Affairs
MEET THE NEW FACES OF MONTGOMERY’S MILITARY
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE
- Colonel Ryan E. Richardson 42nd Air Base Wing Commander: Col. Richardson leads all base operating, infrastructure and services support for 42,000 active duty, Reserve, civilian and contract personnel, students and families at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in direct support of Air University, 908th Airlift Wing, Air Force Materiel Command units, Defense Information Systems Agency and more than 40 other mission partners.
- Colonel Michelle A. Tarkowski, 42nd Air Base Wing, Vice Commander: Col. Tarkowski assists the wing commander with base operations, infrastructure and services support.
- Mr. Terence D. Henderson, Director of Staff, 42nd Air Base Wing: Mr. Henderson assists the wing commander with executive leadership and management for 2,200 wing personnel across two groups and wing staff agencies and ensures support and services for more than 42,000 active duty, Reserve, Guard, civilian and contractor personnel, students and families.
- Colonel Christopher “Brad” Ledford, 42nd Mission Support Group Commander: Col. Ledford leads the Group as it provides community support and base operating services to Air University, the 42nd Air Base Wing, the 908th Airlift Wing, and 45 mission partner units at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.
- Colonel Andrea Maya, 42nd Medical Group Commander: Col. Maya is responsible for establishing policies and maintaining standards of practice to govern all medical and dental healthcare services and support programs for more than 37,000 beneficiaries in the Maxwell-Gunter community. Her command authority spans two squadron commanders and a staff of more than 340 personnel.
- Major Daniel S. Wangelin, 42nd Comptroller Squadron Commander: Major Wangelin is responsible for the execution of more than $800 million across 11 appropriations and leads 110 military and U.S. civilian personnel. As Chief Financial Officer, he is responsible for resourcing the base operating support infrastructure and services support for the base’s 42,000 active-duty, Reserve, civilian, contractor personnel and students along with their families.
- Mr. Gregory E. Rollins, 42nd Civil Engineer Squadron Director: Mr. Rollins is responsible for leading the activities of a 326-person squadron, making technical and executive decisions for the maintenance, repair and capital improvement of a 3,000-acre physical plant at two geographically separated locations.
- Lieutenant Colonel Christopher P. Troutman, 42nd Communications Squadron Commander: Lt. Col. Troutman is responsible for operating and maintaining communications and information systems to support 13,000 permanent party and 16,000 students at Air University, the 42nd Air Base Wing, the 908th Airlift Wing and more than 40 tenant units across two installations.
- Major Marcus A. Miller, 42nd Contracting Squadron Commander: Major Miller leads a squadron of 65 military and civilian Airmen supporting the 42nd Air Base Wing Air University, the 908th Airlift Wing, and 40 other mission partners. He serves as the lead business advisor to the installation’s senior leaders and interacts with private industry and various federal agencies.
- Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Stewart, 42nd Force Support Squadron Commander: Lt. Col. Stewart provides manpower, personnel and services support to 42,000 active duty, Reserve, civilian and contractor personnel, students and families across Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.
- Lieutenant Colonel Steve Hafner, 42nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander: Lt. Col. Hafner commands more than 150 logistics professionals providing vital support for all active-duty, Reserve, civilian and contractor personnel, students and families at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.
- Lieutenant Colonel Brian K. Steinke, 42nd Operations Support Squadron Commander: Lt. Col. Steinke leads a diverse squadron of 80 military, civilian and contract personnel responsible for providing air traffic control, airfield management, transient alert, precision measuring equipment lab, airfield systems, radar maintenance, aviation resource management, intelligence and weather services to the base.
- Lieutenant Colonel Eric F. Kowalski, 42nd Security Forces Squadron Commander: Lt. Col. Kowalski is responsible for providing air base defense and security for all base personnel as well as more than $2.2 billion of assets located at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base.
- Colonel Paul A. Smith, Healthcare Operations Squadron Commander: Col. Smith leads 139 officers, enlisted, civilian and contract personnel, encompassing primary care and all support functions to support the medical needs of 37,000 beneficiaries.
- Lieutenant Colonel Anastasia T. McKoy, 42nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Commander: Lt. Col. McKoy is responsible for optimizing Airman performance and integrating a diverse spectrum of preventive health and aerospace medicine programs across Maxwell-Gunter AFB to include Air University, two wings, 40 mission partners and 39,000 beneficiaries.
BUSINESS AND ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS (BES) DIRECTORATE
- ALVIN F. BURSE: In June 2021, Burse became the Chief of Staff at BES Directorate. He assists in the execution of more than 120 programs; oversees 2,100 military, civil service and contractor support personnel located at four bases throughout the United States with a total annual budget of $924 million; and provides enterprise contract vehicles valued at $30 billion.
- KYNA MCCALL-PASTER: In April 2022, McCall-Paster became the Cyber and Information Technology (C&IT) Organizational Senior Functional for the Business and Enterprise Systems (BES) Directorate. She performs functional management activities for more than 600 civilian and military C&IT professionals assigned to support the AFPEO BES’ mission; advises BES senior leadership in functional and position authorization management, workforce development and performance measurement; and exercises functional policies, processes and communicates direction from the Center Senior Functional to subordinate organizations.
- KYLE REYBITZ: Earlier this year, Reybitz was named the Test and Evaluation (T&E) Organizational Senior Functional for the BES Directorate. His organization is responsible for the delivery of comprehensive IT solutions using Agile software development and DevSecOps methodologies and providing acquisition, sustainment, enabling services and operations of systems and applications across the Air Force and the Department of Defense (DoD).
- LT COL PHILLIP L. ERVIE: In July 2022, Lt. Col. Ervie became Staff Judge Advocate for the BES Directorate. He is responsible for providing legal advice to the Program Executive Officer (PEO) and 15 divisions in support of the Directorate’s mission.
- YOLANDA B. MCCAIN: In early 2022, McCain was named the Director of Small Business Programs, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at BES. The BES portfolio is comprised of more than 125 programs, and she serves as advisor to the Program Executive Officer (PEO) on all aspects of small business matters.
- ALLORRIA L. HARRIS: Harris took on the role of Chief of Contracting, Organizational Senior Functional (OSF), Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) at the BES Directorate in August 2021. With 30-plus years in contracting, Harris has worked on various programs from Air and Space Operations Center, Airborne Networking to Networks and Information Integration.