ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Col. Matthew Leard, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander, inducted two new Friends of Altus during a ceremony at Club Altus on April 9 at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Since the activation of Mobility’s Hometown as a multi-engine flight training school in 1943, one priority has been the community. A unique aspect of the wing is that community members are honored for their contributions to the base and named Friends of Altus.
“Every wing commander gets an opportunity to identify one or two special people who go above and beyond to further the goal we have with the community and supporting our families,” said Leard.
Rodger Kerr, Altus Chamber of Commerce CEO and president, and Brian Bush, Altus Air Force Base housing advocate, were selected by Leard as Friends of Altus for their efforts in supporting the base and its personnel.
Created by former Altus AFB wing commander Gen. George N. Williams, the Friends of Altus tradition began in 1995. To date, twenty-eight members of the community have been recognized with this honor.
Currently serving as the director of Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation, Kerr is a native of Altus with roots in production, agriculture and the agribusiness industry. Throughout his life, he has played an active role with the base and community, serving on the wing honorary commander program for several years.
Prior to his role in the Chamber of Commerce, Kerr worked at the Southwest Technology Center for almost 27 years. He became actively involved with the base through initiatives like the Grow Your Own Mechanic program.
“It really is not about me, it's about you all in the blue,” Kerr said. “We want to be a community of choice. We want our Airmen and their families to look at coming to Altus as an opportunity. Whatever we can do to make that a reality is where I want to go.”
Bush has been a longtime supporter of the 97th AMW with strong ties to the local community. Prior to his current role, he served as the CEO of the Altus Chamber of Commerce and the Altus Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation. Bush worked closely with the community, educational and business leaders to further the economic growth of Altus and create an environment where businesses could thrive.
He was a principal part of building a coalition that worked with lawmakers to enact policy changes at the state and federal level to protect military training airspace and the missions of military installations in Oklahoma.
“When I think about tonight, I'm going to remember the men and women of the United States Air Force who actually deserve the praise that gets heaped upon folks in settings like tonight,” Bush said. “Whatever it is that we do, we do it for you. And I only hope that I've done my duty to give back and serve you in whatever capacity I could.”
During the ceremony, Kerr and Bush unveiled their portraits that will join the other Friends of Altus on display in the Wing headquarters building.