MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. – It would not be out of the ordinary for someone in the East Tennessee Smoky Mountains region to know of a U.S. Air Force Airman.
That’s partly due to the community volunteerism generated here during last fiscal year through students at the Air National Guard’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.
“The student’s daily schedule is packed full of academic requirements, so their dedication to service truly shows in their support to the local community while balancing the rigors of coursework,” said Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley, the commandant.
The TEC’s Enlisted Professional Military Education Center teaches Air Force noncommissioned officer academy and Airmen leadership school each year to thousands of active duty, National Guard, and Reserve junior enlisted Airmen.
Chief Hinkley mentioned that the students actively search for needs in the community during their five- and six-week classes. “I am impressed and proud,” he said.
By the numbers
Since last October at least 930 EPME students temporarily assigned for classes volunteered 2,756 hours of community service with more than two dozen not-for-profits, in and around greater Knoxville.
It is possible that the number approaches 4,000 hours when combined with the additional volunteer work of 84 full-time staff.
Moreover, training center students and faculty are among the top 10 percent of area blood donators for 24 hospitals and 21 counties. They host about eight blood drives each year through the Medic Regional Blood Center.
The Greater Knoxville Business Journal also ranked the base 25th among 100 Knoxville-area major employers with about 780 full-time and 930 part-time employees in 2015.
“We’re as active as we can be,” said Lt. Col. David Meece, the training center’s deputy commander. “When you peel it down to each Airman and their family doing what they do, it’s probably astronomical to think of what impact the training center is having on the community.”
The military not only influences East Tennessee through volunteerism but though $1.8 billion in economic impact, according to regional reports. Base finance officials said more than $153 million of that impact generated from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base.
Taking raw numbers and calculating in indirect local spending helps leaders understand the local economy.
Out and about
In 2013, the app Foursquare rated Knoxville as the most patriotic city in the nation through an analysis of its social media activity. It is not a far stretch then to guess that patriotism generates ways for service members to get involved.
“It is always a highlight to hear that students find the time to give back to the local community,” said Meece. “It’s been a healthy push to be a part of our staff’s participation in community organizations and events. I like to think that we are making a big difference getting out there and doing things.”
Among the staff’s many community support highlights this year was running the 10th Mountain Man Memorial March, hosting the Civil Air Patrol regional training event, promoting youth group events with Youth Leadership Blount, and mentorship with the Air Force Junior ROTC.
Professional continuing education classes brought additional students into the community to observe and ask questions – the Knoxville Fire Department opened their firehouse to videography students to practice camera techniques. The Knoxville Visitors Center hosted public affairs managers to see how they manage a live radio show.
With the next fiscal year at hand, Colonel Meece and other staff discussed the training center’s efforts in military support and awareness by working with the Eastern Tennessee Military Affairs Council.
The training center is among 19 military units that meet in a monthly ETMAC forum downtown with the area’s veterans groups, nonprofits, and military friendly organizations.
“They keep us connected to the local community and the support of military-related organizations,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Krausz, the training center’s first sergeant. He attends monthly meetings as a liaison.
From ETMAC’s forum flows all regional information on military events, ideas, and functions. Each organization and military unit updates the council on charitable drives and awareness events. Elected officials and the local media are also on hand.
“Coming here from Wisconsin, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Krausz said. “It’s pretty amazing, to see the different organizations that come together in support of veterans and active military.”