A community relations initiative, known as the Honorary Commander program, allows D-M to open its gates to prominent members of the local community. They come into base squadrons and groups and work side by side with military commanders.
Each HCC brings with them a unique set of skills and experiences, and that’s no different for John Eslinger, 355th Maintenance Group HCC.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Col. Mark Murphy, 355th MXG commander. “I could tell right away this is a man who knows aviation and has an obvious love for it. I knew he was going to be a great addition to the organization.”
Eslinger became the HCC of the 355th MXG in 2012, a little over a year after Murphy took command. The two met for the first time at the HCC Induction ceremony.
“Anybody who knows me will tell you I’ve always had a love for the military,” Eslinger said. “Getting to sit down with the commander of the maintenance squadron was seriously special.”
Eslinger has a long history with aviation and the military.
“When I came into this life, I came in to be a fighter pilot,” Eslinger said. “But I couldn’t pass the physical to enlist during Vietnam. So I volunteered to go as a civilian, and I went over there twice.”
His experiences after returning from war have encouraged him to reach out to the military community.
“When I came back from Vietnam, I wasn’t treated very nice,” Eslinger said. “It was like ‘oh you volunteered to go to war as a civilian?’ So, I feel like I have an obligation to do whatever I can to make sure these young men and women know that they are appreciated.”
Eslinger says he tries to visit the group as often as he can to increase morale and provide mentorship.
“He’s been very visible,” Murphy said. “A lot of people in his position, who didn’t understand the maintenance part of it, may have only showed up to the big things, but he’s out here all the time.
Murphy and Eslinger have taken their camaraderie beyond the group.
“We just celebrated our birthday’s downtown,” Murphy said. “Mine is Sept. 2 and his is Sept. 4. We had a great time.”
In addition to being an HCC and running his own aviation business, Eslinger is also the owner of a movie production company and a partner in an information technologies company.
“I’ve been blessed in my life to do some pretty cool things but just to be attached to the military, especially to the maintenance group, is truly one of the most special things that has ever happened to me. Supporting the troops and just watching the whole thing work from the inside is great.”
The intent of D-M’s Honorary Commander program is to educate community leaders on the inside workings of the base and the Air Force as a whole.