Friends of the Fang strengthens community partnerships

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Chelsea Smith
  • 125th Fighter Wing

During a season enveloped by the spirit of gratitude, 125th Fighter Wing Airmen, community partners and students engaged in a semblance of thanksgiving at the 125th Fighter Wing’s Friends of the Fang event, Nov. 18, 2022.

Friends of the Fang, or Florida Air National Guard, is a biannual community affairs program aimed to strengthen partnerships with local leaders and students. Attendees are able to learn about the 125 FW mission, its Airmen and current events, while Airmen are able to network with community stakeholders and garner support for the Wing and its missions.

“Friends of the Fang presents a wonderful opportunity to tell our story and engage with our community partners to earn their support and understanding of our operations, missions and requirements as citizen-Airmen,” said Col. George Down, 125th Fighter Wing commander. “We are extremely thankful for the continued support of our local communities who undoubtedly lift us up as we work to keep our local community and nation safe."

Guests included local leaders from the Jacksonville International Airport, CSX, Navy League of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, and the Florida Army National Guard. The event also welcomed military retirees, students from Florida State University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, and elementary students attending the Starbase STEM program on base.

Airmen from the Fatality Search and Recovery Team, 202nd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer, and Heritage Team provided updates on efforts to assist the citizens of Florida following Hurricane Ian, and initiatives to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Florida Air National Guard this year. Guests also received a bus tour of the base and interacted with Airmen who showcased tools-of-the-trade amid static displays and vehicles that filled the base maintenance hangar.

"It’s been really beneficial to engage with the Air National Guard and to get the total force perspective,” said Micah Mills, an FSU ROTC cadet. “Seeing how community members can serve their country in a part-time capacity has been eye-opening. I was surprised to hear about all the different careers and how they come together when they're called upon to complete a singular mission.”

While the Wing shares a runway with the Jacksonville International Airport, Ross Jones, chief financial officer of JIA, admittedly knew little about the installation and how its Airmen support the community.

“I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day operations here,” said Jones. “Being a finance guy, it was particularly interesting to learn about the cost to operate here and to learn about the large amount of fuel burned by each jet," he said.

Wing officials plan to re-engage existing community partners and bring new “friends” into the fold at its next event scheduled for the Spring of 2023.