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Orientation Flights Educate Local Leaders

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jared Rand
  • 187 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 187th Fighter Wing is spreading awareness of its mission and capabilities by hosting orientation flights for local civic leaders. These guests receive a tour of the Montgomery Regional Air National Guard Base before suiting up for a back-seat ride in an F-16 D-model aircraft. 

The 187th has a small footprint in Montgomery compared to Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex. Colonel Will Sparrow, 187th Fighter Wing Vice Commander, says that the wing has been working to increase the public's awareness of the Air National Guard mission here.

"I've spoken to people in the Montgomery area who are surprised to learn there are F-16s at the airport," Sparrow recently said. "Most of the time, they assume the F-16s are from visiting bases or are stationed at Maxwell. There's a lack of knowledge regarding the wing, our mission, and the amazing legacy we've inherited from the Tuskegee Airmen. It's terrific when we are able to bring people out here for a tour of our facilities or an orientation flight. They learn a lot about us and their local guardsmen and end up telling all their friends about us and the mission, which is great exposure."

Pastor Chris Hodges, Senior Pastor at the Church of the Highlands, says he has shared his flight experience with his more than 30,000-member congregation.

"I had the time of my life. I'm still relishing in the experience," Hodges said when asked about the flight. "I've had literally tens of thousands of people read about it on (social media). I'm even going to talk about it Sunday in my message."

Other visitors who have recently received orientation flights are Congresswoman Terri Sewell of Alabama's 7th Congressional District, local business owner Billy Strickland, and Jeff Byard, the Executive Operations Officer for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.  

"We have an important mission, and building relationships with these influential leaders helps us ensure our future effectiveness and recruit the right individuals to work with us," Colonel Sparrow concluded.