Mission critical: Fighter Country Foundation serves those who protect us

Mission critical: Fighter Country Foundation serves those who protect us. (Submitted photo)

For the myriad comforts we have, the opinions we are allowed to express and the best quality of life enjoyed by any human population planet Earth has ever seen — there is an American veteran to thank for that.

Since the 1970s the Fighter Country Foundation has been working toward helping to pay those thanks to the men and women of Luke Air Force Base.

Luke Air Force Base, which is about seven miles west of downtown Glendale, has since inception been the site of elite pilot training apart of the Air Education and Training Command of the United States Military.

Mission critical: Fighter Country Foundation serves those who protect us. (Submitted photo)

According to the Glendale Today, Luke trains 75 percent of the world’s F-35 pilots, and graduates some 105 pilots per year on the latest stealth jet. Originally housing and training pilots on the F-16 most recently, as announced in 2013, Luke houses a total of 144 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.

While elite fighter pilots call Luke home some may not realize the Air Force base is a place where the loved ones of those American heroes make their own lives on site — and in the surrounding community.

“The organization has been around since the mid-1970s with various names and sizes,” said Ron Sites, who serves as executive director at the Fighter Country Foundation.

“The initial purpose of the organization was encroachment concerns — to simply protect the base and keep it open. Over time the organization has evolved and now grown into one of the most unique support organizations in the country for an active duty military installation. The mission of Fighter Country Foundation is to support the men, women, families and mission of Luke AFB.”

The emotional and physical toll of an active serviceman or servicewoman can be daunting, Mr. Sites explains.

“Fighter Country Foundation supports programs and services geared towards morale, well-being, culture, tradition and mission sustainability,” he said.

“Many of the programs and services we provide are for those who might being going through difficult times and need a positive distraction of subject matter education. Whether it is a deployed family event at the zoo, or a Dorm Resident Holiday Event, Luke Literacy Program, Finance Expo, Wellness Expo or the Back to School Bash. Every event we have supports a need of some kind.”

Negativity can be a linchpin for accidents and mistakes while those serving our country are on active duty, Mr. Sites explains.

“Positive morale is important due to the fact that without it, your work gets effected,” he said. “What Luke doesn’t need are a bunch of airmen in bad family situations, bad financial situations or bad health. That can have a chain reaction so bad that accidents could occur. Doing everything we can do to enhance the quality of life at Luke is critically important for us.”

Mission critical: Fighter Country Foundation serves those who protect us. (Submitted photo)

A community that cares

A bridge toward that goal has been the Scottsdale Charros as the philanthropic outfit — through The Charro Foundation — giving the Fighter Country Foundation a grant for $5,000.

“Scottsdale Charros funds will go toward support of FCF’s ‘Top Three Program.’” Mr. Sites said. “FCF’s Top Three focuses on the morale and wellbeing, culture, tradition and mission sustainability. FCF will focus our efforts on the morale and well-being programs we provide. The back to school bash, monthly family deployed events and the operation angel tree and Warm Heart programs, to name a few, will benefit from the dollars the Scottsdale Charros have graciously provided us.”

For 57 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

Jason Klonoski, a Scottsdale Charro, says the work of the Fighter Country Foundation is absolutely essential.

“The events and programs fighter country supports are vital to moral,” he said. “With budget cuts, all things deemed ‘non-mission critical’ have lost out. As you might imagine this would include refreshing facilities, amenities — pool and theater are all closed — events for deployed families. Fighter country does all of this and so much more.”

Jason Klonoski

Mr. Klonoski says we owe our service members for their efforts in defending our way of life.

“Not only do we owe it to our service members to provide a good life, it is imperative to maintain and retain the force we want,” he said. “We need to take care of the young airmen and families in our military especially while a parent is down range in harm’s way. Fighter Country helps do this.”

Mr. Klonoski serves as a board member for Fighter Country and says he has seen first-hand the impacts their efforts have on the loved ones of the Armed Forces.

“I can say firsthand that it is incredibly rewarding,” he said.

“And, I know it makes a difference especially around the holidays. We just had our dorm dweller party. We buy thousands of dollars (I think $15,000 this year) of gifts for young airmen that are a long way from home and away from their homes and families. They very much appreciate the gifts, the party, the camaraderie, but mostly that the community shows that it cares about them and what they do.”

For Mr. Sites, the efforts of Fighter Country come from an innate understandings of what American heroes at Luke Air Force base need.

“Due to the length and strength of our relationship with Luke, we understand where their challenges are,” he said.

“Because we know where their challenges are we also know the right questions to ask. We take this knowledge to great organizations like the Scottsdale Charros so they understand how Fighter Country Foundation supports Luke AFB and why it is important to do so. Mission critical items at Luke get addressed as they should, it is those non-mission critical items that FCF has a deep understanding of, can share with community partners how certain programs won’t receive funding and use that information to generate community resources.”

Go to fightercountry.org.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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