ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Eleven area civic and business leaders were officially inducted into the Ellsworth Honorary Commanders program as part of the Black Hills Military Advisory Coalition’s Chow Hall luncheon at The Monument Convention Center, Jan. 18.
Col. Joseph Sheffield, 28th Bomb Wing commander, formally welcomed those selected to participate in the program – designed to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with community leaders and foster a better understanding of the base and its mission – and thanked those who completed their terms in the program.
“We successfully execute our mission of providing combat airpower – anytime, anywhere - and achieve remarkable results due to the tremendous support we receive from our community partners,” Sheffield said. “Our honorary commander program is a perfect example of that partnership. It’s a way for our Airmen to grow and link Ellsworth with our surrounding communities.”
Sheffield added that the relationships forged through the program are a key part what makes it special.
“To those of you completing your honorary commander terms, thank you for support,” he said. “We appreciate all that you have done. Please know that you are always welcome. Once a Raider, always a Raider. And, to those of you beginning your time in the program, welcome to the Air Force family.”
The honorary commander program is designed to foster positive relationships between Air Force leaders and our neighbors throughout the Black Hills. The wing commander selects who participates in the program and which Ellsworth unit they will be assigned to for a two-year term. Currently there are 26 area civic and business leaders participating in the program.
Individuals handpicked to begin their terms this year include:
- Kevin Andreson, Andreson Realty
- Bishop Troy Carr, Faith Temple Church
- Levi Christman, TrueNorth Steel
- Mary Gilbertson-Lee, Area Civic Leader
- Kelly Howie, Re/MAX Advantage
- Nicole Kerkenbush, Monument Health
- Keiz Larson, YMCA of Rapid City
- Brian Mueller, Pennington County Sherriff
- Anna Whetham, Monument Health
- Mike Pogany, Black Hills Energy
- Robert Raker, West River Electric Association
During the luncheon, Sheffield also recognized 2022 Ellsworth Air and Space Show planning committee members Todd Walhoff, Lynn Kendall, Mary Gilbertson-Lee, Lt. Col. Tony Nishimura and Lorie Vega for awards they garnered recently at the International Council of Air Shows banquet in Las Vegas. Ellsworth was presented the Dick Schram Memorial Community Relations Award for their success in planning and executing an event that best represents the community and Ms. Vega was presented the 2022 Pinnacle Gold Award for Innovation for developing and executing the science, technology, engineering and math displays at the event.