NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The bright lights of the Las Vegas strip are an attractive and alluring sight for Airmen stationed here, but it’s not the only place for fun activities and entertainment.
There are many facilities on base that offer incredible deals and programs, but they need the community’s support to keep them open.
Arts and crafts and the community centers offer a safe environment where Airmen and their families can enjoy activities at a great price. Outdoor recreation offers more than 60 trips a year to Airmen, their families and retirees in addition to rentals and classes.
Taking advantage of these programs can help make Nellis AFB home for incoming Airmen and families.
The community center offers music, dance, dog obedience and martial arts classes for a low monthly fee and is looking at beginning a boxing class for all ages.
Participation is “very important for us to stay open, I mean really,” said Lana Learnard, community center program director. “I think the programs are so important for families, especially on base. The convenience, the value alone compared to off base, and we have great instructors at the community center.”
She went on to say if the Nellis community doesn’t use facilities like the community center; information, tickets and travel; or the outdoor recreation center they’ll close.
Anyone with a Department of Defense identification card, including contractors, retirees and their family members can use the center. Nellis offers more than just recreational opportunities; it offers peace of mind.
“People on the whole just feel safer coming to base,” Learnard said.
While the community center’s dance classes have grown, Learnard is still finding people who don’t know what opportunities are offered to them, leaving the programs to struggle.
“I think a lot of it is that people don’t know [about the services offered]. I hear from people all the time that [say], ‘I didn’t even know the base had a community center.’”
The arts and crafts center is full of amazing opportunities to get crafty and have a fun time. Not only does the center offer classes in everything from ceramics, emulsion, and embroidery, but it can also do custom framing, awards, and gifts for family and friends.
Tammy Trussell, arts and crafts center director, is constantly thinking of new opportunities to offer. The center will host craft fairs in the spring and fall, and she hopes to bring local artists for an art and wine festival sometime in the near future.
The arts and crafts center staff also offers a summer camp where children attend all week doing tie-dye, ceramics, and other activities. Several youth activities take place there each month throughout the year.
But competition outside the gates has placed more emphasis on the need for community involvement in facilities like the arts and craft center.
“The importance is that if they don’t use out facilities, the facilities will no longer be here,” Trussell said. “And that’s probably the biggest thing right now because [Air Combat Command] is targeting that. [The command is] not carrying us around anymore. If we don’t make money, we don’t stay around.”
If the outdoors is more of your thing, the outdoor recreation center offers a variety of rentals and tours for Airmen, retirees and their families. Besides regularly scheduled trips, outdoor recreation does custom trips for six or more people upon request.
The most popular trip offered is the Black Canyon canoe trip, and it fills up every time. Other trips include winery tours, horseback riding, and skydiving, all within the four state region.
Outdoor recreation is also dependent on patronage to stay afloat.
“We compete very well. We’re about one-third the price of anything you can get downtown,” said Mike Clegg, chief of outdoor recreation.
Activities like these strengthen the Nellis AFB community and helps bring families together.
“If you bring your family with you, it’s family time away from work, away from the house, away from everything … its good stuff for those that are in harms way to come back and get back together with their family in an outdoor recreation type setting,” Clegg said.
The impact community involvement has on Air Force families is evident in Nellis AFB’s senior leadership.
Having grown up as an Air Force brat, Col. Barry Cornish’s, 99th Air Base Wing commander, earliest memories were the involvement of the Air Force community.
“I really loved the people and the experience of that was very important to me. Very early in my life, I learned the Air Force community and the Air Force family is really what it’s all about. And by being involved in that, being good community partners, and I think it’s why we retain people.”
This includes the Single Airmen Initiative Program, where the Air Force pays for trips, arts and crafts and other activities single Airmen are interested in attending. Also, outdoor recreation uses the PLAYpass, a card with a dollar limit given to families of deployed Airmen from the airmen and family readiness center that can be used for trips.
Behind the scenes, these facilities work together to help make sure the Nellis AFB community is a success. They advertise each other’s opportunities and promote Nellis AFB programs through word of mouth.
“It helps us all to work with each other,” Learnard said. “We can all inter-relate each others activities through our [own] activities.”
When looking for something to do, check out the classes and trips offered by various 99th Force Support Squadron activities.
For more information on activities at the community center, the arts and crafts center, and trips being offered by outdoor recreation, visit www.nellisforcesupport.com. The community center is located behind the chapel, the arts and crafts center is across the street from the old base theater, and outdoor recreation is next to the outdoor swimming pool.