Shaw is open for tours

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- The general public doesn't get the chance to see the 'downrange' mission of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and its importance to the safety of the United States.

Fortunately, they have the opportunity to see the everyday operations in garrison. Daily operations play a crucial part of the Air Force's mission; it's daily training for the deployed environment.

Shaw, like most military installations, gives educational base tours. The week of July 14, 2014, the Student Opportunities and Rewards aviation and aerospace science summer camp, organized by the Celebrate Freedom Foundation and Clemson University, visited the base. The point of their visit was to allow teenagers to experience how the Air Force uses science, technology, engineering and math, to achieve its mission: 'fly, fight, and win' in support and defense of the Constitution of the United States.

These tours not only help the Air Force recruit, but build valuable community relationships, and enhance public trust and support.

Seeing Airmen in their everyday work environment gives potential recruits insight to life in the Air Force. They can see where Airmen sleep, eat, work, exercise, and even play. They get to experience Air Force Specialty Codes that aren't typically in the limelight. Most importantly, they meet Airmen who love their job, have traveled the world, and who are a part of the world's greatest Air Force . It instills excitement for a possible future, and might even give them the courage to sign on the dotted line.

In addition to recruiting, base tours add to community relations by letting the public feel like a part of the military. We fly over their houses, drive caravans on their roads, and practice combat exercises at ungodly hours of the night. When we invite the public on our base, it gives them a chance to see why we do what we do. Moreover, it offers them a chance to understand the need for night-flying, or why we are practicing mobilization of a wing, and, hopefully, it will help them view us not as an annoyance, but as an ever-ready protective barrier -a shield that guards the nation.

Lastly, base tours enhance public trust and support.
We need the trust of the public. We are responsible to the tax payer, if they do not see our organization as one they can trust, we risk losing their funds. In an economic climate where we are asked to do more with less, it is crucial that we are a visible representation of honesty and trustworthiness. Base tours allow us to show the public exactly what we do with their funds and foster a relationship between the community members and the base.

On a tour, the visitors can see the jets that fly over their houses. They see the medical facilities that take care of Airmen and their families. They see the security forces protecting the gate, the firefighters standing watch day and night. They see the services Airmen preparing meals for their brother Airmen. They see maintainers on the flightline getting ready to launch jets, rain or shine.

Base tours are vital to the mission. They are a catalyst for inspiration of the next generation of Airmen. They are the mortar that binds the surrounding community to the base. They are the visual representation of our honesty and our trustworthiness. Base tours give us the opportunity to show who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how we achieve our mission.