Icemen, neighbors break ground at new front gate

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Bryon McGarry
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A wet and dreary June 30 couldn't keep Iceman Team members from showing their true summer colors - in this case, purple.

More than 200 Icemen, Fort Wainwright soldiers and community members participated in the sixth annual Community Partnership Day at the base's new front gate, planting flowers, building planters and kicking off the Fourth of July weekend in festive fashion.

"The purple shirts signify one team and one mindset," said Billie Blanchard, military affairs committee chair. "As a community, we all live, work and play together, and the shirts just help cement that relationship."

The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee dedicates manpower, time and resources annually to its military neighbors in the spirit of that relationship, switching off years between Eielson and Fort Wainwright.

The MAC donated about $4,500 in food, drinks and supplies to keep the volunteers' spirits up through the day.

"It was tough getting started after all that great food," said Senior Airman Eddie Caro, 354th Fighter Wing command chief executive assistant.

"Once we got going, everything was clicking, though," he said. "I met a lot of great people and had a great time."

The jovial and motivated crowd worked and chatted the afternoon away, accomplishing twice as much work as projected despite the inclement weather, said Jeff Putnam, 354th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy commander.

"Logistically, this type of project can be somewhat challenging to handle," he said. "But everyone came out to work and they accomplished a lot more than we could have hoped for."

Beautification mini-projects included flower planting next to Eielson's new visitors center and base sign and construction of planters along the new main strip entering the base.
Volunteers completed seven of the eight planters and all of the flower planting, but more importantly, they made new friends and had a good time.

The annual event is a great opportunity for Icemen to get to know the civilian community that supports them so much, said Brig. Gen. Dave Scott, 354th FW commander.

"There is no better community to live and work in," General Scott said. "The energy and dedication that the Fairbanks community puts into being a good neighbor to us, today and every day, is simply fantastic."

The opening of the new gate is projected for later this summer, following completion of a new overpass currently under construction just off base.