Members of the Edwards Honorary Commanders Program participated in a tour of the 412th Electronic Warfare Group facilities Aug. 16.
At the start of the tour, Abbe’ Reuter, 412th EWG deputy director, gave a briefing on electronic warfare explaining how the electromagnetic spectrum can be utilized for both protection and in an attack. The honorary commanders toured the Benefield Anechoic Facility and the Integration Facility for Flight Avionics Systems Test.
The BAF is used for modeling and simulation of various aircraft by providing a virtual open-air range prior to real flight test. The facility, which was constructed in 1987, houses a 175-ton, 80-foot diameter turntable that can rotate an aircraft 180 degrees and two 40-ton capacity hoists. The surfaces of the chamber are covered in radiation absorbent materials that keep unwanted radio frequencies out and refrain radio frequencies generated from within the BAF from leaking out.
“Basically, our job is to create a controlled environment,” said Reuter.
Brig. Gen. Michael Brewer, 412th Test Wing commander, added that by testing aircraft in a controlled environment first, the Air Force is able to make the most of real flight test. Problems can be “rounded out” in the BAF, which allows for more cost-effective test.
Lt. Elbert Chan, 772nd Test Squadron, project lead engineer, served as a tour guide that day.
“I’m just trying to inform the community leaders what our mission is here at BAF and also the Air Force as a whole,” said Chan. “We want the community leaders to have insight into what we do. I feel it’s important they feel like part of our community too.”
In the IFAST facility, tour attendees were given the opportunity to fly F-16 and F-35 simulators.
Judy Cooperberg, Antelope Valley Services for Mental Health director, is honorary commander for Col. Stephen Donaldson, 412th Medical Group. Cooperberg said it was a “sharing experience” because Donaldson also hadn’t flown the F-35 simulator until that day.
“We got to experience that together and it was very bonding,” said Cooperberg. “I think the Honorary Commanders Program solidifies a collaboration between Edwards AFB personnel and the community.”
“The tour was awesome. I felt like I was in movie and I was waiting for bad guys to jump out at me,” said Cooperberg. “It was very surreal because it was a lot of the environment that you see in high suspense movies and it really got you excited.”
Col. Kevin Muckerheide, 412th Electronic Warfare Group commander, was joined by his honorary commander, the Honorable Dick Spann, United States Superior Court judge. Muckerheide said that the Honorary Commanders Program gives the neighboring community a “better feel” for what the Edwards community does locally and at the Department of Defense level.
On the “flipside” of that, Muckerheide was invited by Spann to visit a courtroom, which Muckerheide described as an “incredible experience.”
“For those of us who live on base, we go downtown for a variety of restaurants and shopping at Walmart. The Honorary Commanders Program is a good opportunity to see a different perspective,” said Muckerheide.
Jack Connell, China Lake Alliance executive director, is a retired naval officer and pilot who spent much of his career in the test and evaluation business. He is paired with Paul Tierney, 412th Test Engineering Group civilian leader.
Connell remarked that he was impressed by how “astute and capable” the junior officers were on the tour. “They’re really on top of their game and they communicate very, very well. They really know what’s going on here and I was really impressed by that.”
“I think that when the DOD starts looking at facilities and installations that they can downsize, eliminate or maybe even build up, the relationship of the community that supports them is going to be very important,” said Connell. He said that he believes China Lake, Calif., and Edwards AFB are well supported by neighboring communities. However, other defense installations have experienced “friction” with their local communities.
“It’s really important to have the community as an ally,” said Connell.
The Honorary Commanders Program pairs community leaders with Air Force commanders at Edwards AFB to foster a better working relationship between Edwards and the neighboring communities. The honorary commanders are invited on base several times throughout the year to experience some of what the base has to offer. In turn, some HCCs may invite their commander to experience what the local community has to offer.
“Something that has not been lost on me is the fact that if I had joined the Air Force 20 years earlier in 1969, the public’s view of the military was not that great. It has struck me on numerous occasions how blessed I am to be working in the military when the public supports what we’re doing. It makes all the difference in the world. You can feel proud about what you’re doing,” said Muckerheide.
“If this kind of program in any way shape or form assists in that, it pays huge dividends. It makes those in the military feel like what they’re doing is worthwhile and those out in the civilian world better appreciate what we’re doing.”