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Chamber reception welcomes commanders to community

McChord active-duty, Reserve and Air Guard represented

Col. Wyn Elder, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, second from left, and Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake, 62nd AW command chief, meet chamber members April 12 in Tacoma. /Staff Sgt. Frances Kriss

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It's not too often that all three commanders of the major Air Force units at McChord Field are in the country at the same time - and have some free time in their schedules.

Just ask Gary Brackett, business and trade manager for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

Brackett spent several months planning and rearranging dates planning the chamber's Air Force Commanders Reception April 12 at Hotel Murano in Tacoma.

"It's a balancing act," Brackett said with a laugh.

It was something he was more than willing to do for the chance to bring Col. Wyn Elder, 62nd Airlift Wing commander; Chief Master Sgt.  Gordon Drake, 62nd AW command chief; Col. Bruce Bowers, 446th Airlift Wing commander; and Col. Peter Stavros, Western Air Defense Sector commander, together to meet local community and business leaders.

The chamber has hosted the event for the last several years, scheduling one each time the units bring in new commanders.

"We want to help the new commanders establish links in their new communities," said Brackett, who served in the Air Force for four years.

About 100 local community and business leaders and elected and appointed officials attended the reception, some with business ties to McChord Field.

"Some where there just want to be supportive of the installation," Brackett said.

While formal change of command and deployment ceremonies on the base are sometimes difficult for those to find time in their schedules to attend, the commanders reception provided those unfamiliar with what goes on out at the base to meet the commanders in person in a relaxed environment, Brackett said.

"Some of those events can also be intimidating for those not familiar with the military," he added. "This is a chance for them to kind of be comfortable on their own turf, and they can take advantage of that."

It was the first time Bowers attended the event, and he hopes it won't be the last.

"I really enjoyed the opportunity to attend the chamber's commanders meeting with my fellow McChord Field (commanders)," Bowers said. "Speaking with these extremely influential and dedicated local community leaders was extremely beneficial for me, in hearing their concerns and answering several questions. Additionally, it allowed me to thank them for the phenomenal support they give to 446th AW Airmen and all the personnel assigned to JBLM."

Brackett said the chamber hopes to host a similar reception for JBLM Army commanders sometime in late summer or early fall.

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