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Southwestern Illinois again captures prestigious air base-support trophy

From Illinois Business Journal news services

The coveted Abilene Trophy is returning to Southwestern Illinois for a second time in just three years.

The prestigious award is presented annually to recognize a community that provides the finest support to an Air Mobility Command unit. In this case, it’s the region’s demonstrated backing during 2014 for Scott Air Force Base’s military members and their families. The award is also known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award.

The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois spearheaded this year’s nomination on behalf of the St. Louis region, submitting an application that highlighted a series of “firsts” that really brought to life the depth of the region’s ongoing commitment for the men and women at Scott.

“2014 was a remarkable year in ‘Scott Country,’ during which new programs, initiatives and milestones, combined with ongoing efforts, helped to build on the region’s solid foundation of support for the men, women and families of Scott Air Force Base and further strengthened the unique bond we share,” noted Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois. “As with the win in 2013, it was widespread regional support that propelled us into the No. 1 slot again, and we thank the many individuals, businesses, organizations and communities whose continuing passion to serve our military families has us now looking forward to bringing the Abilene Trophy back to Scott Air Force Base.”

Among the firsts showcased in the nomination were:

• Air Force Times ranking of Scott AFB as the No. 1 air base in the nation for airmen, and the many reasons contributing to that honor;

• The role of regional leaders in securing passage of House Bill 3939, which assured for the first time that prior schooling counts for the children of military families transitioning to Scott AFB;

• The first ever “Salute to Scott Air Force Base” as the Leadership Council dedicated its entire annual awards dinner to Scott AFB, highlighting the base and the individual missions housed there;

• Launch of a networking event for veterans to help facilitate employment in Southwestern Illinois for as many separating military as possible;

• Celebration of the first anniversary of the Scott Patriot Program, which had grown to include 650 Patriots demonstrating their “military friendly” commitment through discounts or other support

Representatives from the Abilene Trophy selection committee cited the definitive examples of support highlighted in this year’s application, and the comprehensiveness of the package in its entirety, as factors that led to the Leadership Council’s application capturing first place among the communities vying for the 2014 award.

The announcement was made April 15 by Gen. Darren McDew, commander, Air Mobility Command, and Gray Bridwell, chair of the Military Affairs Committee for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, during an annual spring conference held at Scott Air Force Base.

On-hand for the announcement was Col. Kyle Kremer, 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, who called the Leadership Council to relay the news.

“Last year Air Force Times named Scott as the best base to be stationed in the Air Force due to the quality of life and community support here,” said Col. Kyle Kremer, Scott Air Force Base installation commander and commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing. “This second Abilene Trophy win in three years further highlights the superior relationship between the base and our Southwest Illinois community.”

The official presentation of the Abilene Trophy will take place at a community-wide celebration in the coming weeks, with details to be announced.

Gerry Schuetzenhofer, chairman of the Leadership Council’s Military Affairs Committee, commented, “It’s impossible to truly understand the depth of the sacrifices made by the airmen of the Air Mobility Command Unit at Scott Air Force Base without walking in their combat boots. Nor, can we fully comprehend the extent to which this type of service impacts the personal lives of their family members. What a community can do, however, is what the businesses and individuals of the bi-state St. Louis region are doing – continually seeking ways to honor these individuals through demonstrating our respect, recognizing their contributions and taking action to enhance their quality of life while they are living here.”

The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois is a member-based, economic development corporation representing Madison and St. Clair counties.

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