2023-2024 Defense Community Champions

Bill Adamson

Title: Program Manager

Organization: South Sound MIlitary Communities Partnership

Defense Community: South Puget Sound

Local Base: Joint Base Lewis McChord

What makes them a champion:
A retired Army Colonel, Adamson now works as a program manager for South Sound Military Communities Partnership. He helps address issues between Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and surrounding local governments, as well as advocates for JBLM, Washington National Guard Headquarters at Camp Murray, service members, their families, and transitioning veterans. Adamson’s most notable impacts are seen through transportation, spousal employment, and advocacy projects. He advanced several new I-5 highway projects to reduce traffic congestion for the many military personnel who commute to base and helped pass the Military Spouse Employment Act that eases licensure barriers. With a military background and years of experience in plans and policy development, Adamson has been able to unite many groups and take a coordinated approach to state and federal lobbying efforts.

Paul Albright

Title: Chief Military Officer

Organization: City of El Paso

Defense Community: City of El Paso

Local Base: Fort Bliss

What makes them a champion:
After serving nearly 30 years in the Army, Albright now passionately works for the City of El Paso as the Chief Military Officer for the Department of Veteran and Military Affairs. He ensures that the city provides a high quality of life for its military service members and veterans through employment, housing, mental healthcare, and synchronization of resources while also expanding regional military economic opportunities for El Paso. A strong believer in collaboration and innovative thinking, Albright worked with partners to establish the El Paso Veterans Needs Assessment to understand the true needs of the community and identify gaps in service. He also developed the Bridge Fellowship Program which assists service members departing from military service and military spouses with the transition to the civilian workplace. Outside of work, Albright remains dedicated to his community by volunteering within the veteran community and serving on the boards of two veteran organizations.

Gray Bridwell

Title: Vice President

Organization: Abilene Military Affairs

Defense Community: Greater Abilene

Local Base: Dyess Air Force Base

What makes them a champion:
During his 25 years with the Abilene Military Affairs Committee (MAC), Bridwell has logged countless hours in support of Dyess Air Force Base with a passion for the missions, Airmen, and their families. As Vice President of Military Affairs, he helped fund quality-of-life projects for Airmen and their families, procured a Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant for the base, advocated for the expansion of the Security Access Control Center, championed the establishment of a new STEM lab for Dyess Elementary School, and continues to cater to over 3,000 Airmen and their families at an annual barbecue hosted by MAC . Bridwell also serves as a civic leader for the Air Force Global Strike Command. Thanks to Bridwell’s efforts and dedication, Dyess Air Force Base knows that the community stands behind them.

Brian Dicken

Title: Vice President, Advocacy and Strategic Initiaitves

Organization: Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce

Defense Community: Toledo Region

Local Base: Ohio Air National Guard, 180th Fighter Wing

What makes them a champion:
As the Vice President of Advocacy and Strategic Initiatives at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dicken develops and implements advocacy efforts on behalf of the region’s military assets. He has secured funding for several projects including a new deployment processing center, fitness facility, and permanent hangers at the Ohio National Guard 180th Fighter Wing. To make Ohio an attractive place for military families, Dicken advocated to add the Guard and Reserve to the State of Ohio occupational licensing reciprocity law. He initiates conversations with local, state, and federal officials to be forward-thinking about opportunities and is a firm believer in not exchanging business cards for the first time during a crisis. Dicken is also a member of the ADC Federal Outreach and Advisory Council.

James Dignan

Title: Principal

Organization: AMK Professional Services, LLC

Defense Community: Eastern Ohio

Local Base: Youngstown Air Reserve Station

What makes them a champion:
After serving over 20 years in the Navy and Air National Guard, Dignan continues to support the Youngstown Air Reserve Station (YARS) through his engagement with organizations and businesses in the community. He currently serves as Principal of AMK Services and has been heavily involved in the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission as a former Commander of YARS, Deputy Director of Global Force Management and Mobilization at the Pentagon, and President and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce. He was instrumental in securing a $6 million OLDCC DCIP grant for Springfield, Ohio and $42 million in MILCON projects for YARS. To recognize military servicemembers, Dignan expanded the Statewide Hometown Heroes program and has provided over 100,000 sporting event tickets to servicemembers and their families. His experience and passion for the military mission have a positive impact on all of those he works with.

Jana Evans

Title: San Antonio Area Manager

Organization: Soldiers’ Angels

Defense Community: Alamo–San Antonio Region

Local Base: Joint Base San Antonio

What makes them a champion:
As the San Antonio Area Manager for Soldiers’ Angels, Evans supports 50 Veterans Affairs sites with community support and food distribution. She regularly attends city and nonprofit meetings to inform San Antonio about Soldiers’ Angels and opportunities to support through volunteerism and donations. Evans has helped develop a global network of volunteers representing all 50 states, Washington DC, and 31 countries to ensure that those who serve or have served are supported, uplifted, and remembered through a variety of support programs. Through this network of volunteers, a 96% campaign efficiency rate is maintained. Campaigns led by Evans include adopt-a-family programs, deployment support, telehealth services, fresh grocery deliveries, holiday stocking donations, Halloween candy drives, and more.

Marian Galbraith

Title: Former President, Former Mayor

Organization: Thames River Heritage Park, City of Groton

Defense Community: Southeastern Connecticut

Local Base: SUBASE New London

What makes them a champion:
During her years as Mayor of the City of Groton, Galbraith was instrumental in helping stakeholders and citizens alike gain a better understanding of the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and defense industries present in Southeastern Connecticut. She organized Connecticut’s Coast Guard Summer celebration to commemorate the Coast Guard’s 225th anniversary. As a former educator, she worked closely with school superintendents to develop oral history projects with submarine veterans and promoted STEM events, school fairs, and art projects with military-related themes. She also helped obtain three surplus Navy utility boats to operate as public water taxis, allowing community members to visit military heritage sites. As an educator, elected official, and volunteer, Galbraith has connected the state, local communities, and military installations.

Tom Hammond

Title: Director

Organization: Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative

Defense Community: Northern California

Local Base: Sierra Army Depot

What makes them a champion:
Hammond is a director for Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) which provides electrical service to the Sierra Army Depot. Since 2005, Hammond has been a tireless advocate for the Sierra Army Depot community. He strongly supported infrastructure improvements for the region such as a renewable energy project and the construction of a more reliable and higher capacity power supply. He also founded the Sierra Alliance, a support group developed for the community to work with the base, support economic development, and identify useful infrastructure improvements for the community. As a Lassen County Supervisor, Hammond built coalitions to ensure that county supervisors did not neglect the base.

Elizabeth Hartman

Title: Commander

Organization: American Legion Post 539

Defense Community: Eastern North Carolina

Local Base: Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

What makes them a champion:
As the Commander of American Legion Post 539, Hartman ensures that veterans in the post stay connected to active-duty personnel and command teams on Eastern North Carolina U.S. Marine Corps installations. She also keeps local leadership informed about emerging issues and initiatives that impact the military population. Improving K-12 education and opportunities for veteran and military spousal employment are her top priorities. As the youngest American Legion Commander in the United States, she best understands the needs of the young men and women who serve in today’s military. Her work has proven that more modern initiatives will engage younger military and veteran families within their communities.

Mary Jane Jernigan

Title: Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, President, Board Member, President

Organization: Freestate ChalleNGe Foundation; AUSA MG Harry Greene, Aberdeen chapter; Maryland State AUSA

Defense Community: Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor

Local Base: Aberdeen Proving Ground

What makes them a champion:
As a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, Jernigan advises and supports Army leaders at the Aberdeen Proving Ground and other Maryland military facilities. She is also President of the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy Foundation, a program that provides at-risk youth with academic, job, and life skills training, where she oversees the raising of funds for scholarships and maintains connections with senior leaders of Aberdeen Proving Ground to strengthen the program. During her time at the Maryland State Association of the United States Army, she has turned an inactive chapter into a chapter that was honored as a “Best All-Around Chapter” three years in a row. Previously, Jernigan provided logistical and technical support to the Army Test and Evaluation Command and the Army Research Laboratory as an expert in human systems integration. Assuming a variety of responsibilities, Jernigan knows how to effectively elevate issues and implement solutions in Northeastern Maryland.

Nick Lacey

Title: Former Co-Chair

Organization: South Georgia Military Affairs Council

Defense Community: South Georgia

Local Base: Moody Air Force Base

What makes them a champion:
After serving for 31 years in the Air Force, Lacey served as President of the Air Force Association South Georgia Chapter. Lacey remains actively involved in service organizations and provides mentorship to the men and women of Moody Air Force Base on the qualities of leadership and service. He worked with the base defense units when opportunities arose to aid those in need through community project/needs. Nick served 9 years as the South Georgia Military Affairs Council Co-Chairman directly involved with Moody AFB Spouses Employment, Professional License Portability, implementation of Land-Use Regulations to protect Moody AFB from encroachment, challenging subdivision developments near Moody and under flight paths, representing the South Georgia Community regarding military affairs at the national-level (Congress, Air Staff and the ADC) and state level , and many other Moody support programs.  As a member of the Nashville-Berrien Rotary Club for over 25 years, Lacey helped build a tiny home community with a medical unit, mental health facility, and human resource office to support homeless veterans. He is committed to keeping Moody Air Force Base active and maintains relationships with local, state, and federal personnel and agencies that have key insights into the economic impacts of closing a unique and significant military installation.

Laura Mathis

Title: Executive Director

Organization: Middle Georgia Regional Commission

Defense Community: Middle Georgia

Local Base: Robins Air Force Base

What makes them a champion:
Laura Mathis was appointed as Executive Director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission in Macon, Georgia in July 2016, after serving as Deputy Director for five years and Director of Public Administration for four years. Prior to joining the Regional Commission in 2007, Ms. Mathis was the County Manager for Wilkinson County, Georgia. Ms. Mathis currently serves as President of the Georgia Association of Regional Commissions and is a member of the Air Force Materiel Command Civic Leader Program representing Robins Air Force Base. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia and a dual Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and French from Converse College. In 2007, Ms. Mathis was named one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s Top Forty Under Forty. Ms. Mathis is a 1999 graduate of Leadership Macon and a 2002 graduate of Leadership Georgia. She and her husband, Kyle, live in Perry, GA.

Sherman McCorkle

Title: Founding Director

Organization: Kirtland Partnership Committee

Defense Community: Albuquerque

Local Base: Kirtland Air Force Base

What makes them a champion:
When Kirtland Air Force Base faced a Base Realignment and Closure in 1995, McCorkle co-founded the Kirtland Partnership Committee to support, grow, and preserve the base. McCorkle also serves on the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission and is a civic leader for the Air Force. With a strong commitment to embracing airmen as part of the community, he ensures that the military has a voice with the legislature, state and local officials, and local business leaders. His efforts have resulted in securing reciprocity of licensure for military spouses in New Mexico, reconstructing the waste waterline, organizing bulk fuel spill cleanup efforts, rebuilding Sandia Base Elementary School, and more.

Barbara Proffitt

Title: 

Defense Community: Greater Fort Knox Region

Local Base: Fort Knox

What makes them a champion:
Devoting over 50 years of her life to Fort Knox, Proffitt has forged strong partnerships with surrounding communities and positively impacted the lives of thousands of soldiers and their families. She and her late husband Ronnie, an Air Force veteran, hosted community partnership dinners on their farm to help foster positive relationships between the post and surrounding communities. She also spearheaded an adopt-a-platoon program for deployed soldiers. Although she retired from her long-time role as the community/guest relations coordinator for the local healthcare system in 2018, Proffitt is still a familiar and well-loved figure at all Fort Knox events and ceremonies. As a show of hospitality and friendship, she is known for making homemade pecan pies for the incoming and outgoing commanders and officers.

Barbara Riddle

Title: President & CEO

Organization: ChamberWest Chamber of Commerce

Defense Community: State of Utah

Local Base: Hill AFB, Roland Wright ANG Base, Camp Williams, Ft Douglas, Dugway Proving Ground and Tooele Army Depot

What makes them a champion:
As President and CEO of ChamberWest Chamber of Commerce, Riddle plays an integral role in raising awareness about the missions of Hill Air Force Base and the Utah National Guard. She has also served as the Quality of Life Committee Chair for the Top of Utah Military Affairs Committee for the last decade. In this role, Riddle meets with commanders and command chiefs to determine base necessities and then develops strategies to support these needs. She notably raised thousands of dollars to renovate Hill Air Force Base’s Airmen Recreation Center to support the resiliency of Airmen. Riddle also strengthens base and community relations through an annual picnic for 3,000 Hill AFB attendees, military appreciation baseball games and horseback riding excursions.

Ron Sites

Title: Executive Director/President

Organization: Fighter Country Foundation

Defense Community: West Valley Partners

Local Base: Luke Air Force Base

What makes them a champion:
As the President and CEO of Fighter Country Foundation, Sites supports and advocates for the Airmen, families, and mission of Luke Air Force Base by raising community support for base programs and activities. His leadership contributed to Luke Air Force Base being selected as the Air Force’s new F-35 Lightning II training center in 2012 and also prevented the base from succumbing to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Raising over $14 million for the base, Sites has led morale-boosting infrastructure projects including renovations for the fire station, child development center, kitchens, F-35 Squadron Heritage Rooms, and more. He also organizes school supplies donations and developed the Women’s Leadership Development Series to benefit female Airmen. Most recently, Sites has focused his attention on providing health, well-being, and resilience initiatives for Luke Airmen and their families.