Commentary: YARS Needs Us; We Need YARS

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — What would you do to support the largest employer in Trumbull County that’s also the third-largest employer in our region? Just about anything, including strapping into the cargo hold of a C130 Hercules aircraft with 31 other brave souls and flying on a military mission to South Carolina.

Ninety-five percent of the time – to my wife’s dismay – my motivation for participating in anything is purely economic in nature. Yes, I even look for business angles at my kids’ baseball games.

However, in this situation, I learned that this trip was far larger than just economics. It was about discipline, respect, integrity, training and teamwork. These are the ingredients to a bright future for our children and a bright future for our country.

The purpose of the mission was to drive awareness of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and the mission of the 910th Airlift Wing, and to increase engagement with the community.

My key takeaway was that we need the 910th and a fully functioning and growing air base. And YARS needs us.

Our community cannot take the air base and the core values of the military for granted. Community engagement is one of the levers within our control to increase the size and scope of YARS.

It’s for these reasons that I was thrilled to attend the 910th Airlift Wing 2019 Civic Leader Tour to Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina.

On Oct. 17, we reported to YARS for a 6:30 a.m. mission briefing. We soon boarded a C130H and headed off to Charleston … almost.

About 30 minutes after takeoff, the flight piloted by the 910th Wing Commander, Col. Joe Janik, and Lt. Col. John Boccieri was diverted back to YARS due to a minor issue with one of the four engines. 

910th Wing Commander, Col. Joe Janik, and Lt. Col. John Boccieri piloted the mission to Charleston, S.C.

After a smooth landing, we deplaned and boarded another C130H and were airborne once again within 40 minutes.

Upon arriving at Joint Base Charleston, we kept a brisk schedule for the two-day trip and visited many areas of the base including the flight equipment safety unit, maintenance and repair operations for the massive C-17 Globemaster aircraft and the K-9 training school.

Joint Base Charleston is impressive in its size and scope. I admit to being wildly jealous of its capability and wondering, “What’s wrong with us? Why can’t our region get a huge military presence like this?” But after a conversation with Col. Janik, instead of thinking “why not us,” he convinced me to ponder, “What if we could …”

YARS is starting from a position of strength as the Mahoning Valley’s defense community installation with nearly 1,900 assigned personnel. It has 71 buildings across 321 acres of land and it pumps more than $100 million dollars into the local economy.

The 910th maintains the Department of Defense’s only large area fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control disease-carrying insects in areas of intense need, such as after hurricanes and major floods.

Beyond purely technical and operational capabilities, a military presence in our region is vital to our future.

Jeff Leo Herrmann visits the flight deck of the C130H

We live in a social media obsessed society of individuals who have been swallowed into their mobile devices.

Now more than ever we need institutions – such as the military – that teach and stress discipline, respect, teamwork and leadership.

These are all traits and characteristics I noted during the tour. Obviously discipline, respect and teamwork are at the core of military service, and we need more of this as a society.

What really struck me was the ongoing commitment by the Air Force to training, education and drilling on the basics. We live in an increasingly complicated and technical world, and flying by the seat of our pants, operating on only instincts and raw talent, doesn’t cut it anymore.

As business leaders, we need to commit to regular training for our teams to help them embrace the productivity of new tools and technology. We can learn a lot from the military’s approach to training and the basics.

Getting back to “what if…”

Get involved! YARS has a Base Community Council that meets quarterly. And the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, part of our Regional Chamber, is working on plans to increase the visibility and scope of the YARS mission. 

Lastly, the “Thunder Over the Valley” Air Show is June 20 and 21 at YARS.

We need YARS and YARS needs us.

Pictured above: Boarding the C130H Hercules at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

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