Legislators sharpen focus on Bay County military and community partnerships

Florida state legislators and community leaders toured Tyndall Air Force Base. Tour included the F-22 Raptor and the 601st Air and Space Operations Center.

Florida state legislators and community leaders toured Tyndall Air Force Base. Tour included the F-22 Raptor and the 601st Air and Space Operations Center.

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Florida state legislators and community leaders converged on Bay County Monday to visit local military facilities. The purpose of the visit was to foster community partnerships and raise the awareness of legislators of military installations and issues in Bay County.

Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett and Rep. Jimmy Patronis brought six members of Florida's Committee on Military and Veteran's Affairs, chaired by Rep. Stan Jordan to Tyndall Air Force base and the Naval Support Activity Panama City to learn more about new weapons systems and encroachment issues. Appointed by Governor Jeb Bush in 2001, Maj. Gen Burnett is the senior military advisor to the Governor and oversees the missions of the Florida National Guard. Elected to the House in 2006, committee member Rep. Patronis' 6th District is home to Tyndall Air Force base and the Naval Support Activity. 

"Tyndall is here because we needed it here and it has stayed here because local leaders through partnerships with the local community, have made this a world class facility, that cannot be duplicated anywhere," said Burnett. 

Maj. Gen. Henry "Hank" Morrow, 1st Air Force and the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Region commander co-hosted the Tyndall tour along with 325th Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Darryl Roberson. The tour included stops at the 43 Fighter Squadron to learn more about the F-22, Raptor, the newest fighter in the Air Force inventory, and the 601st Air Operations Center that oversees air sovereignty operations for the continental United States. 

"Tyndall is the second busiest Air Operation Center in the entire world second only to Iraq," said 1st Air Force Chief of Staff, Mr. "Scotty" Scott. The command is responsible for supporting Northern Command and NORAD operations for the United States, said Scott. NORAD was established in 1958. 

Navy Capt. Hal Harbeson hosted the group at the Naval Support Activity and underscored the importance of cooperation between the military and civilian authorities. Recent proposals to develop waterfront adjacent to the Naval facility would have had an adverse impact on the Navy's training mission had it not been for the intercession of community leaders, said Harbeson. 

NSA, home to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, is one of the major research, development, test and evaluation laboratories in the Navy. It boasts a wide base of expertise in engineering and scientific disciplines in the mission areas of mine warfare, expeditionary warfare, special warfare, and diving and life support. The Warfare Center along with the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center, and the Center for Navy Ordinance Disposal and Diving at the Navy Base make it the consolidated site for all Navy diving and salvage research, development, testing, and training. 

The tour concluded with a dinner conference hosted by Rep. Patronis. "Due to the cooperation between military and civilian authorities we can prevent the compromise of training areas crucial to national defense and keep Bay County a safe haven for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who preserve our freedoms," said Patronis. 

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