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97 AMW members learn community heritage

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing look at Lake Altus-Lugert Dam while listening to Tom Buchanan, irrigation district manager, during the tour of the dam, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla.

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing look at Lake Altus-Lugert Dam while listening to Tom Buchanan, irrigation district manager, during the tour of the dam, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla. The water volume of the lake is 132,830 acre feet of water used for agriculture. This part of the annual Farm City Week tour was to the dam that houses all water used for irrigation for the agricultural members of Altus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Dowell)

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing make their way to the lower area of the Lake Altus-Lugert Dam, during the tour of the dam, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla.

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing make their way to the lower area of the Lake Altus-Lugert Dam, during the tour of the dam, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla. Members of the 97th AMW participate in the annual Farm City Week to meet with local agricultural members. This part of the tour was to the dam that houses all water used for irrigation to the agricultural members of Altus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Dowell)

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing cross a bridge, during the Lake Altus-Lugert Dam tour, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla.

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing cross a bridge, during the Lake Altus-Lugert Dam tour, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla. Members of the 97th AMW participate in the annual Farm City Week to meet with local agricultural members. This part of the tour was to the dam that houses all water used for irrigation to the agricultural members of Altus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Dowell)

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing look at the Lake Altus-Lugert outflow, during the tour of the dam, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla.

Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing look at the Lake Altus-Lugert outflow, during the tour of the dam, Oct. 5, 2018, in Lugert, Okla. The outflow of the water reaches several parts of parts of Southwest Oklahoma. This part of the annual Farm City Week tour was to the dam that houses all water used for irrigation to the agricultural members of Altus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing receive the opportunity to tour local farms every year during Farm City Week. This year it was held from Oct. 2, 2018, through Oct. 5, 2018. This event provided members of the base with the chance to strengthen community relations while learning about the agricultural landscape surrounding the base.

One event during the tour this year was a visit to the Lake Altus-Lugert Dam. Located about 17 miles north of Altus, the dam is responsible for all the water used for irrigation by local farmers.

The water from the dam is pulled into rivers, channels and pipes to be used by farmers who pay annually to use the dam-water in order to grow their crops.

Forty members of the base were taken to the dam to tour the facilities. They were able see what fuels the agriculture that makes Southwest Oklahoma farmland thrive. This tour allows base members to see the unique parts of the dam that the public is not normally able to see.

The tour was led by Tom Buchanan, the irrigation district manager. He spoke about the specific workings of the damn and the effort that went into building it. Buchanan’s main points about that dam were how vital its existence is to the residents of Altus.

“Distributing water is a key part of agriculture and our way of life in Southwest Oklahoma,” said Buchanan. “I find that agriculture and the military are similar in how we protect and provide many things for this county.”

With a constant fluctuation of members coming and leaving the base, Farm City Week always offers new and reestablished Airmen of the 97th AMW a chance to connect with the local environment.

“My favorite part of the tour was historical involvement - learning all the details of this town that’s not apparent to the rest of the nation,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Cielo, a dental assistance assigned to the 97th Medical Operations Squadron. “It’s amazing how much hard work went into the damn throughout major events that have happened to this nation and that it still thrives today.”

Several delays happened throughout the years while the dam was still being built. Events like World War I, World War II and the dust bowl caused delays on the construction of the damn. Through all these hardships the dam was completed and an agricultural boom spread across the surrounding area. This allowed the growth of the City of Altus to become what it is today.

While the farmers of Altus use the Lake Altus-Lugert Dam for agriculture, the 97th AMW gets its water from the Tom Steed Reservoir. Even though the base’s water source is from a different location, it is still distributed by the City of Altus.

“It doesn’t matter who or what you are,” said Heath Sirmons, optimization element chief assigned to the 97th Civil Engineer Squadron. “Whether it’s our aircraft, personnel or plants in the community, we need water to live.”

When the dam was built, having water available made Southwest Oklahoma the perfect place to grow cotton because of the area having vast amounts of flatland and a majority of clear weather throughout the year. Those same reasons are favorable to training conditions for the 97th AMW.

Events like farm city week act as a continuous reminder of the importance of partnership between the civilian and military communities. This event highlights each group’s essential role in keeping our land, people and environments safe.