A dinner and induction ceremony for outgoing and incoming honorary commanders took place recently at the Delta Breeze Club.
It was difficult for me after two years to say goodbye to the 15th Air Mobility Operations Squadron commanded by Lt. Col. Brian McCullough and all the other awesome “Master Minds” that I’ve come to think of as family.
What an honor to be selected to participate in the honorary commander’s program and to top that off to call the 15th Air Mobility Operations Squadron my squadron. From the very beginning, they made me feel like one of them.
My first introduction to the squadron was under Lt. Col. Richard Sheffe’s command. I couldn’t believe it but shortly thereafter, he, wife Jennie and children headed off to Italy. Unfortunately, this is one of the realities of military life: People come and go all too frequently.
A column in the base newspaper, written in 2012 by Airman 1st Class Madelyn Ottem of the 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office, captured the essence of the honorary commander program. “The honorary commander program exists not only to strengthen ties between Travis and the local community, but also for key members in the community and leaders in the Air Force to mutually benefit each other.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s a totally different story when you go behind the scenes and witness how the Air Force operates on so many different levels. Many of us, I’m sure, wouldn’t complain half as much if we knew the personal sacrifices that our military men and women and families make on our behalf. In most cases, were it not for the honorary commander’s program, this alliance probably would never happen.
After Lt. Col. Sheffe’s reassignment, Lt. Col. McCullough became the commander of the 15th Air Mobility Operations Squadron. What a surprise to learn that we’re both from Tennessee as well as my husband Jim, so we bonded right away, as we Tennesseans always stick together. But all those Peyton Manning stories, what can I say? Mark my word, if the Broncos win the Super Bowl, those Manning stories will only expand.
As a former military spouse, I was very pleased to find that Lt. Col. McCullough and others in the squadron are committed to not only the military mission but equally committed to the family as an integral part of that mission.
This came to the forefront when Lt. Col. Ryan Aerni struggled with cancer and I observed how everyone came together with love, support and prayers. I wondered how I would’ve taken it if this had happened to Jim when he was a young officer on his way up the career ladder. The Aernis handled a very difficult time in their lives with such courage, grace and dignity, and serve as wonderful role models for all of us.
I will always treasure my time with the spouses club that included coming together for coffees, luncheons, dinners, the theater, movie nights out and line dancing. Kristine Aerni introduced me – someone who had never ever danced – to line dancing. Though I’m still not very good at it, I plan to keep trying. I can assure you; it’s much more difficult than it looks.
I loved the squadron potlucks, where there was always an abundance of good food. The guys, including Lt. Col. McCullough, are very good cooks. At a recent goodbye squadron potluck for me, I shared that my food bill will definitely go up, since I can no longer depend on them to feed me. For two years, the squadron and first lady Farrah McCullough fed me royally. I was never reluctant to say yes to even a vague invitation to eat with them.
At the luncheon, I received a lovely pen set and a beautiful picture frame enclosed in glass that contained wonderful accolades from just about everyone, unless they were on deployment. Needless to say, it will always hang on a prominent wall in my home.
Where did the time go? The two years passed so quickly, but I carry with me wonderful memories and insight that I shall treasure forever.
Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of education.