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Shaw joins with local community to celebrate Air Force birthday

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Destani Matheny
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In honor of the Air Force’s 74th Birthday and Shaw Air Force Base’s 80th Anniversary, Airmen and community members gathered together to reflect on the meaning of service and partnership, Oct. 6, 2021. The legacy of Shaw began with a World War I aviator and a group of local community leaders determined to preserve his heroism.


In 1941, an Army Airfield was established on the outskirts of the city. Community leaders joined together and petitioned to have the base named in honor of Lt. Ervin Shaw, and on August 30th, Shaw Army Airfield was named.


A Sumter native, Shaw was killed in action during World War I while flying a reconnaissance mission over France.  He was one of the first Americans to fly combat missions in World War I.


“Whether you follow Lieutenant Shaw’s fearlessness or look to our 20th Fighter Wing’s Wild Weasel mission, at the core of our military triumphs is a culture of innovation and boldness,” said Col. Lawrence Sullivan, 20th FW commander. “As we have seen from our military’s historical dominance, we are a joint force that is desired around the world because of our ability to adapt and posture for future conflicts while preserving current-state efforts; Shaw enables exactly that.”


Since then, Shaw played a critical role in every conflict since World War II. Now home to the 20th Fighter Wing, U.S. Army Central, 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central) and 15th Air Force, Shaw employs a convergence of effects across the competition continuum.


Charged with supporting current operations in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility to also providing the organizing, training and equipping of Airmen to adapt to the next fight through strategic, flexible and agile operations, Shaw Airmen are aligning with the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.’s intent. During the event, Airmen and community members heard Brown speak on the National Defense Strategy and the modernization and cultural changes needed to out-pace the U.S.’s peer competitors.


“Accelerate Change or Lose is as much about the decisions we make regarding our future as it is the culture we require to make it,” said Brown. “Based on our deliberate efforts to change and define culture, I believe we have started to set conditions to ensure U.S. airpower can continue to be decisive in 2030 and beyond.”


Brown highlighted the collective efforts of the base to prioritize tomorrow’s fight, from the fighter generation squadrons transition to creating a smaller-footprint, deployable egress shop. Foot stomping on culture and relationships, Brown also acknowledged the strong relationship between Sumter and Shaw is the cornerstone of progress and a healthy culture.


“Everyone benefits because the Sumter community works as one,” continued Brown. “Success takes help, failure you can do alone. Shaw Air Force Base’s success is a tribute to the leadership of both teams.”


Even as missions shifted to meet Air Force priorities, the community stood fast supporting the needs of the base. Today, there are numerous organizations that provide active support to the Airmen and families at Shaw.


Dedicated members of the Sumter community host annual events, conduct outreach and provide family advocacy to make sure Airmen and Soldiers are supported as they make a new location home. Both Shaw and Sumter also partner together to train first responders and synchronize environmental efforts. These efforts are often noticed through combined events, however, they can also be seen in the small gestures the community provides to the base. 


In 1991, to celebrate the 50th anniversary, an organization known as the Shaw Sumter Community Council showed their appreciation by donating 50 oak trees to Shaw. Later this year, 30 more oaks will be planted in honor of the 80th anniversary.


“Our military, like the oak tree, is a symbol of strength and endurance; through partnerships, new and withstanding, we can continue to provide support, help our Airmen modernize their force by bringing in industry best practices and advocate for their needs throughout the state and nation,” said Steve Creech, one of Shaw AFB’s representatives on Air Combat Command’s Commanders Group. “We have so much mutual respect and appreciation for one another and having opportunities to come together over a common goal allows us to further integrate and celebrate the best this Nation has to offer.”


Taking care of families is vital to retaining quality Airmen. Leaders at Shaw and in the community regularly meet to discuss ongoing issues and barriers to success. Through these interactions, Sumter leaders have been able to advocate for changes that directly impact Shaw families.


For example, recently, the state of South Carolina passed the license portability act, which makes transferring professional licenses easier for military spouses. This helps ease some of the burden on military spouses that often comes with frequent moves and job hunts.


The Sumter School District was also distinguished by the state as a Purple Heart School District.  To earn this distinction, the school district made changes such as implementing ambassadors to assist military families transitioning into the community.


While community and military members spoke at the event on the changes still needed, the historic 80-year relationship between Shaw and Sumter served as reminder that this community has the foundation to accelerate change in the right direction.


“Our legacy doesn’t stop here. Just like the oak trees and our relationships, this base and community will continue to grow,” said Sullivan. “It’s only together that we can achieve ‘Victory by Valor’.”