PALMDALE, Calif. - The Edwards Air Force Base Civilian-Military Support group and guests gathered at Hacienda Lane Ranch for a night of dinner and dancing July 18. The Annual Barbecue served as not only a fundraiser, but as a 25th anniversary celebration for the group and was “without a doubt” the largest barbecue the group has ever had.
Among the guests, former and current commanders and leaders from the Air Force Test Center enjoyed conversation, live entertainment by Jacob Nelson and the Tone Wranglers, and dinner. The caterer, Jin Hur from Crazy Otto’s donated the proceeds from the event to the Antelope Valley Veterans Action Coalition, who served the food that evening. Guests were also invited to have their picture taken at an old time photo booth put together by the Spoiled Doves of California and Texas.
“This is a pretty big day for the Brewer household,” shared Brig. Gen. Michael T. Brewer, 412th Test Wing commander. “Today, about ten minutes ago when you saw my wife start to cry, my son just got his first assignment from pilot training.”
He went on to say that when you think of the men and women wearing the uniform as sons and daughters, it’s something special. It’s no longer just a soldier going into combat that needs to rely on their equipment, but a son or daughter that is going to rely on their equipment.
“I’ve been the commander at three different bases and we don’t get any support better than we get right here,” said Brewer. “I thank you for that.”
Edwards Civ-Mil was first established in 1989 in response to the base realignment closure commission’s determination to shut down bases all over the country and world. The organizations founder, Aida O’Connor, shared her story of how Civ-Mil in the Antelope Valley came to be.
O’Connor had accepted a tour invitation from former Air Force Flight Test Center commander, retired Maj. Gen. John Schoeppner, to visit Patrick AFB, Fla. During that trip, she met their CivMil group.
“My gosh, it was the most beautiful time – it was gorgeous. The whole event was wonderful and their CivMil group was fabulous,” said O’Connor. “They not only were out here like we are tonight, but some of them were retired and so knowledgeable about the Air Force that they acted as docents on some of the busses.”
On the plane ride home, O’Connor asked Schoeppner where she could join the Edwards Civ-Mil group.
He replied, “Oh, we don’t have one. They told me if I brought you on this trip we would have one.”
And 25 years later, the group is continuing to serve Edwards AFB. The group has raised the funds to complete projects such as providing new flags and poles to the base’s Flag Park, financing busses to allow Airmen to participate in the Armed Services Day Parade and providing new furniture and equipment to the Higher Grounds facility in the dorm area.
“Relationships are always important. If you don’t have relationships, you don’t have a mission,” shared Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Brendan O’Dowd, a guest at the barbecue. “[With Civ-Mil] you know someone else is there, you’re not by yourself, you’re not alone. A lot of people feel alone today and there are people that are here supporting and are willing to do anything to make sure you feel welcome.”
Civ-Mil was presented with resolutions from California State Senator Steve Knight and the City of Palmdale for the relationship they have built over the years.
“I’m proud that Aida thought of this, or was dragged into this 25 years ago and was smart enough to continue on,” said Knight. “So many great people work at Edwards AFB and help our fighting men and women have the best that’s out there and the most proficient. The test that they do out there makes sure that folks like General Brewer’s son are going to be safe.”
The last presentation was a traditional one for Civ-Mil, a gift for their host, Francis Lane who offers her ranch for the event. This year’s gift was an 18-foot by 22-foot garrison flag that was flown in 13 different aircraft including an F-18, C-17, B-2, U-2, B-52, B-1 and KC-135. It was presented to Lane in a custom-built cabinet to hold the flag.
The Edwards AFB Civilian-Military Support Group exists to create a friendly association between civic leaders and military personnel at Edwards. Civ-Mil acts as a host group when needed and finds annual service projects to improve the general quality of life on base.