SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C.-- Mr. Robert Largent, Air Force Association chairman of the board of directors, speaks to an audience made up of Shaw active-duty members about the AFA and its role in bettering the U.S. Air Force at the Carolina Skies Club May 9. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Josef Cole)
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C.-- Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, Air Force Material Command vice commander and the highest ranking female officer in the Air Force, shakes the hand of Shane Syromi, a Crestwood High School student after judging his JROTC project as part of the South Carolina State Air Force Association Convention activities held at Shaw May 10. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Josef Cole)
by Staff Sgt. Holly Brown
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/13/2008 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- People have the choice to invest their time as they see fit. Some choose family time, some choose hobbies and others haven't really figured out how to spend their time yet. One man feels strongly enough to invest his time in bettering the Air Force in any way he can.
Mr. Bob Largent, Air Force Association chairman of the board, dedicates approximately 25 percent of his time to getting the Air Force story out to the public as a volunteer on top of his regular full-time job. The AFA mission is to educate the public about the critical role of aerospace power in the defense of our nation; advocate aerospace power and a strong national defense; and support the United States Air Force and the Air Force Family.
He gathers information from around the Air Force to inform congressmen and other decision makers on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., about what is really going on in today's Air Force.
"AFA is not a lobbying organization," he said. "We are an education and advocacy association."
AFA members meet with Capitol Hill "staffers" who work for congress and share the inside story they have from Airmen across the Air Force.
"We're known as the 'honest broker' on Capitol Hill - we tell the good, bad and indifferent - and we're not hesitant to do that," Mr. Largent said.
The AFA goes so far as to invite the staffers and congress to Air Force installations to get the story first hand.
"We put a KC-10 and a KC-135 side-by-side for the staffers so they could see the difference between the jets and their missions," he said. "We've had Airmen of all ranks and career fields sit down with the staffers to tell their story."
"It really shows them what the Air Force role is, what the mission is and the Air Force contribution to the Global War on Terror," he said.
The AFA held a South Carolina state convention here May 10. Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski, Air Force Material Command vice commander and the highest ranking female officer in the Air Force, was the guest speaker at the convention awards banquet. She spoke about the Air Force research and development mission.
"Air dominance is not something guaranteed to us," General Gabreski said. "It's going to take advanced systems and technologies to reach our goals."
General Gabreski's speech topic is another example of the information Mr. Largent receives for his situational awareness.
Mr. Largent made it a point to visit with everyone from Maj. Gen. William Holland, 9th Air Force vice commander and U.S. Air Forces Central deputy commander, to the Airmen attending Airman Leadership School during his visit here.
"Our goal is to make sure you have the tools, resources, people and dollars to do your job," Mr. Largent said at an AFA luncheon here May 9 attended by company grade officers.
"The key to our success is our 'grass roots,'" Mr. Largent said.
Grass roots such as the members of the local AFA chapters.
"Whether they're out volunteering in the local community or speaking to a local social studies class about the job they do and what the Air Force does, they are serving as a spokesperson for the Air Force," he said.
The reason these Airmen are so important is they are able to explain to the American public how the Air Force is winning the fight for democracy every day, he said.
AFA is led by volunteer leaders at the national, state and local levels. AFA's state organizations and more than 230 chapters hold elections and conduct programs to increase public understanding of key national security issues in their communities, according to AFA's official Web site.
The association is responsible for creating many aspects of today's Air Force to include the Community College of the Air Force, the position of the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and the Air Force memorial.
"We are your professional association," Mr. Largent said.
For more information on the AFA, visit www.afa.org.