Powerful partners in defending the homeland

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The Pikes Peak Region is home to an incredible mix of Department of Defense military installations: Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Schriever Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

These locations are workplaces to a multinational, joint service force. This force has active and Reserve military members, civil servants and defense contractors. When you couple with the great residents locally, you have formed a powerful force in protecting Americans where we live and work.

Data from 2004 show that the military provided 38 percent of the total local economic impact. 2005 data further demonstrated the military’s value:

  • Annual military and civilian payroll: $1,682,941,060
  • Construction, services and procurement expenditures of materials, equipment and supplies: $1,115,328,240
  • Value of indirect jobs: $699,878,005
  • Estimated total economic impact: $3,172,753,154

From a homeland defense perspective, it’s smart for local military leaders to take steps to maintain and enhance the partnership with community leaders across all sectors: government, business, academic, news media and nonprofit. Indeed, an involved and informed public is a powerful tool in our nation’s arsenal to ensure that we are not attacked again.

A good news story

The military has a good story to tell. Author Joseph Conrad wrote, “There is no rest for a messenger till the message is delivered.” The complexities of a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year information environment makes the job challenging. Nonetheless, we have made it a priority.

Local military leaders work hard in disseminating truthful and accurate information. They conduct activities to increase public awareness and understanding – annual open houses, tailored community briefings, facility tours, speakers’ bureaus and public Web sites are examples.

It’s critical to maintain a strong and open relationship with media so that the public may assess and understand the facts about national security and defense strategy.

The direct involvement in local organizations by military members and families and the participation by the community in our exercise and training programs are keys to enhancing the partnership.

Not a single lane

The local community plays a major role in homeland defense. Combining the military’s efforts with community programs makes for a stronger nation.

I’m the son of an Air Force veteran and served in the military for 30 years myself. During that time I lived in dozens of communities. The Pikes Peak region is a showcase of how a community can be supportive of the military and be an advocate for a strong homeland defense.

For example, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce has been a strong supporter of the military since 1941, when it formed the Military Affairs Council. Through the years the chamber has held many programs that have been beneficial.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is one of the founding institutions, with USNORTHCOM, for jointly developing a homeland defense curriculum to build a new generation of leaders.

Here are a few organizations that enhance homeland defense and our partnership:

  • The National Homeland Defense Foundation: A nonprofit organization that focuses on building a coalition of partners for a strong homeland defense.
  • Citizen Soldier Connection: Connects Fort Carson soldiers and their families with volunteers for the purpose of providing a local support network.
  • Home Front Cares: Provides emergency financial assistance, goods and services to families of active duty, activated Reserves and National Guard troops serving in harms way.
  • Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo: Proceeds have supported military family programs for more than 60 years.

The ‘people factor’

In addition to the active duty military, many military personnel return upon retirement. More than 21,000 retired military live here and receive more than $425 million annually in retired pay.

It is more than dollars that establish a relationship. The fabric of a community is only as strong as the connection of its residents.

The military returns support to the community by assisting during natural disasters and other emergencies; volunteering as counselors, coaches, fire-fighters – the list is endless. Our presence is positive and I know that the military is appreciated.

Our community is a model for the nation for how to partner in defending our homeland. We’ve all done a great job, but together we need to keep moving ahead.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed.”

Michael B Perini, a retired Air Force colonel, is director of public affairs for NORAD and USNORTHCOM. He is accredited with the International Association of Business Communicators, and can be reached at michael.perini@northcom.mil