Partnership Soars at Scott Air Force Base
The communities of Scott Air Force Base and Belleville are so intertwined it can be tough to tell where one ends and the other begins.
“These men and women, they live in our communities, they visit our shops and restaurants, they attend our churches and schools, their kids play on our kids’ soccer teams and baseball teams,” says Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert. “They are a part of our lives.”
The base, which employs nearly 14,000 people, has called Belleville home since the early 1900s. The community and the base share responsibilities on the Belle-Scott Committee, which fosters the civilian-military relationship by planning events and easing the sometimes jarring transitions of base families as they move around or their loved ones deploy. At nearly 60 years and counting, the committee is the oldest continually operating civilian-military partnership in the United States.
“This Belle-Scott Committee has really given Belleville an opportunity to get to know the Scott Air Force Base community,” Eckert says.
As the largest employer in southwestern Illinois, Scott generates a regional economic impact of roughly $1.8 billion.
“We recognize that it’s a lot of jobs, it brings a lot of dollars to this region,” Eckert says. “From an economic standpoint, this is just phenomenal what this does for our region.”
Far more important than the numbers, though, are the people of the base, and what they contribute to day-to-day life in Belleville.
“There’s really no way to put a price tag on how important the people from Scott Air Force Base are,” Eckert says. “The people who work at Scott and who pass through Scott bring so much to our community in terms of culture and quality of life and friendships and values. It’s phenomenal, and we’re very blessed to have them.”
The goodwill runs both ways, though, between this amiable community and the storied Air Force base. Belleville provides remarkable support for the base, which is especially important given the challenges of military life for servicemen and women and their families, says Col. Gary Goldstone, 375th Airlift Wing Commander at Scott Air Force Base.
“People in the neighboring communities put together care packages for the troops, wave welcome home signs at the airport, fly the flag in their front yards, say thank you when they see someone in uniform and volunteer to mow lawns and shovel snow off driveways for our spouses whose loved ones have deployed,” Goldstone says.
A display of dedication to both their country and their community, members of the base frequently reach out to Belleville by volunteering in a variety of places throughout the city, including churches, schools, youth groups and civic organizations, according to Goldstone.
“They are dedicated, talented and hard-working professionals who take to heart the true meaning of service,” he says. “Whether at their home stations, on the battlefields or in their local community, our service members willingly and selflessly go above and beyond to give back for the greater good.”