Edwards Civ-Mil holds 26th annual barbecue

Air Force photographs by Rebecca Amber

PALMDALE, Calif.—As the rain poured down July 30 at Hacienda Lane Ranch in Palmdale, members of the Antelope Valley and Edwards Air Force Base communities gathered under awnings and fellowshipped.

Just 30 minutes later the skies cleared, they dried all the tables and chairs and then enjoyed the 26th Annual Edwards Air Force Base Civilian Military Support Group Barbecue.

“The barbecue is just one more social at Civ-Mil.  We spend all of our time trying to raise money to benefit Edwards AFB in some way; in the interim, we get together and have some fun and do some social things,” said John Fergione, Edwards AFB Civ-Mil president.

While there is some modest fundraising at the barbecue, the main purpose is for the Civ-Mil members and leaders and the new commanders at Edwards to get to know each other.

Maj. Gen. David Harris, Air Force Test Center commander, and his wife Valene, were in attendance along with Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, 412th Test Wing commander, and his wife Pauline.

The Schaefers were stationed at Edwards several times before returning as the command team of the test wing. This year’s barbecue was their third and each one has been an encouragement to the family.

“It’s awesome to see the patriotic folks that we have in Southern California; to know that this is really a team sport,” said Schaefer. “They understand the value and the sacrifice that our military members and their family members make day to day and this is a great connection point for them and the military.”

Civ-Mil is run by 21 directors that meet on the second Thursday of every month. They ask base leadership about the wants and needs of the Airmen and then do their best to raise funds and meet those needs.

They have offered and provided support to Higher Grounds, Airman’s Attic, Hearts Apart and the Chiefs Group, to name a few. When possible, they also host senior Air Force officials to show them what the Antelope Valley has to offer.

This year, Civ-Mil donated money to maintain the Flag Park on Rosamond Blvd. across from Bldg. 1. There are 56 flags in the park that are on display year-round.  According to Fergione, the wind and heat is “brutal” on the flags so they need to be replaced every few months. Each set of flags costs over $1,000 to replace and Civ-Mil donated enough money to purchase the next four sets of flags. 

“I’m a veteran. I remember when I was that age, we needed the help and just being recognized is sometimes all it takes,” said Fergione, a Navy veteran who flew A7-Es off the USS Forrestal.

“Our relationship with Edwards is as good as it’s ever been and we work at keeping it good. Civ-Mil is 100 members strong right now and we’ve got more applications that we hope to approve next month.”

At the end of the night, Civ-Mil invited Francis Lane to dine at the Odyssey Restaurant in North Los Angeles as a guest of the executive board.  A gift presentation for Lane is made every year as a thank you for hosting the barbecue at her ranch for the last 26 years.

Attendees also included U.S. Congressman Steve Knight, R-Calif., and former Air Force Test Center commander retired Maj. Gen. Doug Pearson.

“Edwards Air Force Base enjoys, in my humble opinion, the best relationship with the community that I’ve ever seen at any base,” said Schaefer.

Edwards Civ-Mil was first established in 1989 in response to the Base Realignment Closure Commission’s determination to close bases all over the country and world. Today, 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.