An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : News
NEWS | June 22, 2007

Program turns civilians into commanders

By Staff Sgt. Brian Hansberry 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

The Honorary Commanders Program is a new program that is designed to build bridges between the armed forces and the surrounding community.

The program provides local community leaders the opportunity to see how the Air Force conducts its day-to-day affairs, while allowing servicemembers a chance to get involved in the community volunteer programs.

The program began in 2006 with an induction luncheon, where business leaders were paired with squadron commanders. The first order of business for the pairs was beginning to understand each other's occupational roles.

Maj. Robert Passinault, former commander of the 322nd Training Squadron, invited his assigned partner and honorary commander, Dave Saylor, to attend his daily squadron and base functions. Mr. Saylor, who is the general manager of Acadiana Cafe, was able to meet the troops and view the everyday workings of the squadron during his one-year term.

"I wasn't aware of how Lackland functioned," said Mr. Saylor. "I knew they did training here. It's given me a lot more insight on what goes on and how the organization works here."

Like any other first-year program, the Honorary Commanders Program was not without its setbacks.

"The first-year program came with a lot of challenges," said Major Passinault. "Drill instructors don't have a lot of extra time. And that was our biggest one."

While there were some adversities faced by those participating in the program, there were also many positive accomplishments.

According to Major Passinault, one of the highlights of the program was joining with Mr. Saylor in his community service efforts.

"These business leaders are already very involved in the community," Major Passinault said. "We decided to join what he was doing."

According to Major Passinault, Mr. Saylor and a team of volunteers serve food and spend time with at-risk kids for one hour a week at Laurel Heights Youth Center.

"They provide positive role models to these kids who really need them," Mr. Saylor said. "And they are missed when they aren't able to come out."

According to Major Passinault, the children are not the only people benefiting from the after-school program. NCOs and senior airmen are also learning from the volunteer experience.

"You get to see how hard they work supporting the country by serving the community," Major Passinault said. "We get just as much from them as they get from us. Watching Dave lead his people in the kitchen as they get ready to serve a meal is a learning opportunity. He gives these young NCOs and senior airmen some different leadership tools that will help them as they develop into senior NCOs and NCOs. As the people learn and become better leaders, the squadron also benefits."

As a testament to those benefits, the 322nd Training Squadron won the Training Squadron of the-Year Award.

"We as partners have won that award," Major Passinault said. "The many chances to get involved in the community, I believe, played a big role in us being able to win."

Both Mr. Saylor and Major Passinault believe they have achieved the primary goals: building understanding on both sides, and helping servicemembers get involved in the community.

"I'm really impressed with the Air Force's professionalism," Mr. Saylor said. "And if you sum up this whole program in a catch phrase - Building better relationships by getting involved."

Major Passinault passed command of the 322nd TRS to Lt. Col. Patrick Burke on June 21, but Mr. Saylor plans to remain in his position in hopes of expanding on the success they have had.

"We don't want the 322nd to have to break in both a new commander and an honorary one at the same time." Major Passinault said.