Honorary Commander's golden ticket opens gates to D-M AFB

U.S. Air Force Capt. Miguel Valencia, 563rd Operational Support Squadron flight surgeon, shows David Gallaher, 924th Fighter Group honorary commander and managing member and designated broker for Tucson Industrial Realty LLC, how to thread a suture needle at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2015.  D-M AFB’s honorary commanders toured the 355th Medical Group with stops that included the Medical Clinic and the Health and Wellness Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Miguel Valencia, 563rd Operational Support Squadron flight surgeon, shows David Gallaher, 924th Fighter Group honorary commander and managing member and designated broker for Tucson Industrial Realty LLC, how to thread a suture needle at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2015. D-M AFB’s honorary commanders toured the 355th Medical Group with stops that included the Medical Clinic and the Health and Wellness Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kimberly Dowd, 355th Aerospace Medical Squadron human performance flight commander, shows Chris Edwards, 355th Operations Group honorary commander and owner of Tucson Appliance, how a static flight simulator operates at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2015. With an attachment above  the simulator allows pilots to experience reduced oxygen induces hypoxia without the dangers of flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Kimberly Dowd, 355th Aerospace Medical Squadron human performance flight commander, shows Chris Edwards, 355th Operations Group honorary commander and owner of Tucson Appliance, how a static flight simulator operates at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2015. With an attachment above the simulator allows pilots to experience reduced oxygen induces hypoxia without the dangers of flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Paul Ebiya, 355th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, shows members of the base’s Honorary Commanders Program a demonstration  of the new pharmacy machine, the Pharmassist, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2015. The Pharmassist can refill 100 prescriptions per hour with little to no mistakes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Paul Ebiya, 355th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician, shows members of the base’s Honorary Commanders Program a demonstration of the new pharmacy machine, the Pharmassist, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 2, 2015. The Pharmassist can refill 100 prescriptions per hour with little to no mistakes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen/Released)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory a military installation can be a world of mystery to those outside its gates. The D-M AFB Honorary Commander Program allows local civic and business leaders to gain a better understanding of the various missions and units on base by providing tours and activities. 

There are approximately 50 honorary commanders in the program. These commanders gain access to D-M AFB, creating a bridge from the local community to the base. Each commander is paired up with a unit for a term of two years.

In turn, the military commanders and their units gain the opportunity to learn more about the community in which they live.  D-M AFB commanders and personnel benefit through increased association with the community and its leaders.

"It is a way we can bring community leaders into the Air Force and base to learn more about us, so that they can go out and share that information to people they know in the area." said Nicole Dalrymple, 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs community relations chief.

The base hosts quarterly immersion tours where a unit or specific mission is highlighted to help inform the honorary commanders. D-M also invites honorary commanders to large base events to help them learn about the base and its mission.

They also have one-on-one relationships with their units. There they meet Airmen and learn about their jobs, families, as well as, attend squadron or group functions like holiday parties and award ceremonies.

Recently the group was given a tour of the 355th Medical Group which incorporated all four of the medical squadrons, the Health and Wellness Center followed by the Medical Clinic.

"We saw and did things a lot of people have not seen or done before," said Tom Murphy, 12th Air Force honorary commander. "The best (part) was that at each stop, there was a young Airman explaining how they did their jobs."

The quarterly tours allow the honorary commanders to learn about more than just their assigned squadron, expanding their coverage to the rest of D-M AFB's mission.

"There is isolation sometimes between the military and the community, where if you're not military you don't really know what's going on, on the inside," said Mark Taylor, 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron honorary commander. "Every time I come out here I'm learning a little bit more about different squadrons and how they work together and what their uses are."

Honorary commanders hold a ticket to bridge the gap between the community and the force behind the gate.