FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois on Thursday night showed lots of love for Scott Air Force Base with an awards presentation that celebrated the sprawling base's importance to the metro-east.
Dennis Wilmsmeyer, the leadership council president, noted that at least 140,000 people benefit economically each year from Scott, which employs 13,000 military and civilian personnel and generates a $3.2 billion impact on the region.
Looking out an audience of nearly 400 people gathered at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel, Wilmsmeyer said the region's neighborhoods, communities and the region itself are better because of the base and the people who work at Scott, whose workforce has grown by 40 percent over the past decade.
"We are privileged to have Scott Air Force Base in our community and are delighted to honor them this evening," he said.
Col. Kyle Kremer, the 375th Airlift Wing commander, as well as base commander, accepted the 2014 "Salute to Southwestern Illinois Award" on behalf Scott.
Kremer noted Scott's central role in carrying out President Barack Obama's military agenda, whether it's humanitarian missions in the wake of natural disasters or military missions in war zones like Afghanistan or Iraq.
"He can do that because of what we do at Scott Air Force Base," Kremer said. "We put the 'global' in global mobility."
Kremer said Scott's mission depends on the support of metro-east community members -- support that's independent of the base's economic impact.
"You do it because you want to," he said. "And because you're supporting the airmen."
The council, whose top agenda this year is spearheading a campaign to protect Scott from potential Congressional budget cuts, honored major units stationed at Scott by providing certificates to representatives of the following:
* The U.S. Transportation Command,
* the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command,
* the Air Mobilty Command,
* the 18th Air Force Headquarters,
* the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center,
* the Defense Information System,
* the Air Force Network Integration Center,
* the 932nd Air Lift Wing,
* the 126th Illinois Air National Guard Refueling Wing, and
* the 375th Air Mobility Wing.
Toward the end of the awards ceremony, the atmosphere grew tense when tornado sirens went off outside.
Emcee Carol Daniel, a news anchor and reporter for KMOX Radio, told audience members to remain in the large dining room until the all-clear sign was heard.
"So we will not be leaving," Daniel said to applause.
Several people, seeking to make the best of the situation, said to their tablemates, "More wine! More wine!"
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2533.