Past Champions

2023-2024 Champions

Jana Evans

Alamo–San Antonio Region

National Honoree


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.

Watch Jana’s Story >>

Elizabeth Hartman

Eastern North Carolina



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.

Watch Liz’s Story >>

Mary Jane Jernigan

Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor



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.

Watch Mary Jane’s Story >>

Bill Adamson

South Puget Sound


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

City of El Paso


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

Greater Abilene


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

Toledo Region


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

Eastern Ohio


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.

Marian Glabraith

Southeastern Connecticut


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

Northern California


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.

Nick Lacey

Moody Air Force Base


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

Robins Air Force Base


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



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

Fort Knox


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

State of Utah


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

West Valley Partners


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.

2023 Champions

Sharene Brown

Spouse of the 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force

National Impact Award Recipient


Sharene Brown launched the Five & Thrive initiative in 2021, with the goal of improving quality of life for Air Force families by focusing on 5 key areas (childcare, education, healthcare, housing and spouse employment). Her dedication to military families is felt across the country, and ADC is honored to recognize Mrs. Sharene Brown as the inaugural recipient of the National Impact Award.

Dr. Lucy Greene

South Georgia



Dr. Greene and her late husband, Parker Greene, formed The Moody Support Group, a civilian network with the sole purpose of honoring our servicemen and women in any capacity possible. Dr. Greene has been a leader in Moody Support for over 40 years. Additionally, Dr. Greene is involved in a multitude of initiatives on and around Moody Air Force Base, including leading Moody Support Group, working with the Governor on his defense initiative, authoring daily updates for local civic leaders, authoring a monthly Volunteer Volume that captures all the support efforts for Moody AFB and working with local schools and universities to support the education of our military and their families.

Watch Dr. Lucy’s Story >>

Kimberly Huth

St. Clair County, Illinois



Serving as the liaison between all county departments and all organizations across Scott AFB leaders, Huth’s talents are called upon by state and national elected officials to solve complex issues affecting those who serve our nation. Huth’s primary focus is assisting military members in obtaining county services, while promoting, maintaining, and fostering a harmonious relationship within the military and civilian communities of St. Clair County.

Watch Kimberly’s Story >>

Frederick Mueller

Sierra Vista, Arizona



A retired Army officer, Mueller has a keen interest in, and passion for, our military, and has committed the majority of his adult life to serving our nation. Mayor Mueller has advocated for service members, their families and veterans as a member of the Governor’s appointed Military Affairs Commission for several years. He has also participated in and supported Sierra Vista’s United Veteran’s Council and led environmental efforts in the Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca area.

Watch Rick’s Story >>

Fred Alvarado

Alamo–San Antonio Region, Texas


Through founding and leading Broken Warrior Angel, Alvarado has provided opportunities to homeless, disabled and OTH (other than Honorable) men and women veterans. He is a Vietnam veteran himself, and is dedicated to reaching out to, supporting, and providing relief to homeless veterans in the San Antonio area.

Curtis Beulah

Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor


Serving as the Chairperson of the Alfred B. Hilton Memorial Fund, Beulah provides education on the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in the Civil War and the achievements of Sgt. Alfred B. Hilton. Through Beulah’s leadership, the foundation was able to accomplish several actions to honor and remember Sgt. Alfred B. Hilton and the USCT.

Jay Chesshir

Central Arkansas


As President of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Chesshir has been a consistent advocate for LRAFB’s mission, airmen and families at the local, state and federal levels. He has also spearheaded fundraising efforts to create scholarships, support the LRAFB Spouse’s Organization and the First Sergeant Groups’ Warm Hearts Program. His leadership at state and national levels to protect and enhance the missions of LRAFB have helped assure awareness of the many vital roles the Base plays to assure national security.

Aubrey David

Alamo–San Antonio Region, Texas


Through running the Unaccompanied/Unaccounted for/Unclaimed Veterans Program, David pays tribute to service members by laying them to rest with honors. He ensures standard internment procedures with military honors for veterans with no known next of kin or those whose next of kin are unable to attend. David and his team hold quarterly burial services, open to the public, to honor the service of these veterans.

Serafina De Los Santos

Alamo–San Antonio Region, Texas


De Los Santos provides training, education, career development, networking opportunities and more to service members, veterans and their families as they start to transition out of the service or seek new career opportunities. The JBSA Transition Alliance connects a wide variety of organizations to provide transitioning service members and their families with the resources they need to be successful.

Bob Decker

Northwest Ohio Region


As co-chairman of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee, Decker has been a strong advocate for military members and their families. As part of the committee, he has helped retain the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing during the 2005 BRAC, create one of the first veteran courts in Ohio and contributed to the Ohio Federal Military Jobs Commission.

Alvin G. Kinsall

Southeastern Connecticut


As chair of New London’s Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee, Kinsall has been a champion of veteran, service member and military family support, appreciation and inclusivity. His efforts revitalized the U.S. Submarine Veterans Groton and helped found the City of New London Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee.

George Lauritson

Fort Leonard Wood Region


During his tenure as Chairman of the Fort Leonard Wood region’s Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, Mayor Lauritson’s leadership positively impacted servicemembers, military families and veterans through multiple partnership initiatives that support military family quality of life, infrastructure resiliency, regional transportation access, regional healthcare; quality of public education; military spouse and transitioning servicemember employment initiatives and Fort Leonard Wood’s mission success.

Jamie Livengood

Goldsboro, North Carolina


Serving close to 2,000 military-connected students, Livengood has developed and implemented a multitude of programs and practices to meet the unique needs of military-connected students. Through establishing and/or supporting programs like the Military Child Education Website, Scorecard Working Group and Wayne School of Technical Arts, Livengood has been a strong advocate for military families.

Colonel Robert Long

Lompoc, California


As commander for Vandenberg Space Force Base’s (VSFB) Space Launch Delta 30 and Western Launch and Test Range, Colonel Long has been committed to continuous improvement of the base’s relationship with the City of Lompoc, a city of nearly 44,000 that neighbors VSFB. Col. Long established the VSFB Community Partnership Program to strengthen the base’s relationship with the city and created the Integrated Resilience Center for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in the Vandenberg community.

Chuck Parker

Malvern, Pennsylvania


As Senior Vice President for Balfour Beatty Communities, Parker initiated a plan to develop an innovative, third-party financed, energy conservation program for its 55 military housing communities in the U.S. This program has resulted in significant energy/water consumption and cost savings for both BBC and the Army, better living conditions for military families, and BBC’s ability to dedicate more resources to its core mission of building and maintaining homes for our military families.

William D. Rowe, Jr.

Northern Virginia Region


Dr. Rowe has worked for a number of years to help defense communities become more sustainable, resilient, and mission ready. He has led and supported a multitude of initiatives and programs to do so, including leading Booz Allen’s BRAC campaign from 2005-2011, volunteer work with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, guiding Northern Virginia’s Cyber Training & Roadmap program and much more.

Ray Springsteen

Greater Fort Knox Region, Kentucky


As CEO of Abound Credit Union, Springsteen has led efforts to support soldiers and their families while strengthening Fort Knox. He promotes financial literacy among service members, leads workshops for veteran entrepreneurs, serves as the board chairman of the Knox Regional Development Alliance and has supported expansion of healthcare access in the Fort Knox region.

Joseph Zeis, Jr.

Western Ohio Region


A retired Air Force Colonel, Zeis now serves as the senior advisor for aerospace and defense, a role where he works to protect Ohio’s military and aerospace installations. He has been an advocate for service members at the federal, state and local level and is an active member in defense communities throughout Ohio.

2022 Champions

Dr. Ivan Allen

Warner Robins, Georgia


Dr. Ivan Allen is the driving force behind the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center, which provides wraparound services including training and education for veterans and their families as they transition from military service.

“We’re bringing in those military service men and women in the last six months of their contract with America,”Allen says.

After the center opened in 2016, it partnered with the Georgia Department of Veterans Services to provide benefits counselors to help apply for VA and state veterans benefits, including health care, in addition to advanced career training, job placement, entrepreneurship coaching and other services. “I had no idea it would take off like this,” Allen says now of the center.

Through a memorandum of understanding with Robins Air Force Base, the center has lodging to accommodate service members and veterans from across the country and across the branches. Of the more than 500 graduates who have received credentials at the center, 100% transitioned to four-year institutions or entered the workforce, making an average of more than $25 per hour. Allen has long been active in military-community programs in Central Georgia –which has been designated a Great American Defense Community –and says the initiatives are aligned with the mission of Central Georgia Technical College, which he leads.

“Our mission at our college is workforce development, and at the end of the day, workforce development is about taking care of people,” he says. “The pipeline of workers will be available to keep that base strong, which keeps America strong. It’s that simple.”

Jim Bradshaw

Grand Forks, North Dakota


When he was a student in ROTC, Jim Bradshaw had a plan to join the Army. But that dream got sidelined when his father died while Jim was in college, and Jim was called on to run the family business, a construction and construction materials company that had been in the family since it was founded in 1910.

As he helped grow the business in Grand Forks, North Dakota, he got word that two friends were killed in Vietnam, which he says was hard to deal with but inspired him to take up a bigger cause.

“Their names were Gary and Mel,” Bradshaw remembers. “I know what they’d have told me – it wouldn’t have been really good English, either – it would be to get going and do something, don’t sit there like a witness.”

Bradshaw became active supporting service members at Grand Forks Air Force Base, which he has done now for nearly 60 years. He served as an honorary wing commander, honorary squadron commander and honorary chief master sergeant. The base named him one of just a few Community Ambassadors.

“The main focus was on our airmen and our military. What can we do for them? What should the community be aware of? And if there were problems that came up, we wanted to be a part of the solution,” he says of the ambassador program. “It was wonderful. I was just blessed to be a part of that.”

Bradshaw has also served on the Grand Forks Region Base Retention and Investment Committee and represented Grand Forks AFB on the Air Mobility Command Civic Leadership Board.

“I’d be lying if I said the base didn’t have an economic impact. But to me, the most impact it’s ever had on this community is a social impact,” he says. “We’ve gotten to meet great people who have been all over the world on very special missions. They do special things for us. We’re mighty proud of them.”

James Burns

Clovis, New Mexico


When James Burns was asked to join the Committee of 50, the military affairs arm of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, he figured he had two options.

“You can get involved and be busy with it, or you can just show up at meetings and not do anything,” he says now. “I just chose to get involved. That’s how it started.”

That kicked off Burns’ decades of service to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico and the community it calls home.

Burns, who owns three hardware stores, quickly took a leadership role and encouraged other business leaders to take pride in their support of the base.

“We put up a website, and I printed stickers that you can put on the front door of your business,” Burns says. “And we got nametags. We walk around with a ‘Proud Member of the Committee of 50’ nametags.”

Like many rural defense communities, Clovis has historically lacked some of the perks near other installations, a problem Burns has set out to solve. He was instrumental in the recent passage of state legislation to recognize many military spouses’ professional licenses from other states, for example.

For years, airmen and military family members who needed certain forms of specialized medical care had to drive an hour to Lubbock, Texas, because they weren’t available at Plains Regional Medical Center, an acute care hospital in Clovis.

When Burns learned of this in 2017, he launched meetings to help PRMC understand the community and business need to expand its services. That led to PRMC hiring a new administrator and tasking him with finding a way to provide the services. Burns, meanwhile, hosted receptions for prospective doctors to meet installation and community leaders. Within two years, the hospital had hired nine new specialists, most of whom said the welcome receptions helped sell them on Clovis.

For Burns, also a city commissioner and the father of an active duty airman, all this work is worth it for one simple reason: “The Air Force is important to Clovis.”

Dr. Brian Henry

Waynesville, Missouri


When service members with children pick their next duty station, “education is really the number one thing in terms of coming to Fort Leonard Wood,” says Dr. Brian Henry, superintendent of the Waynesville RVI School District in Missouri.

“We need to offer attractive facilities, top-notch education, and advanced coursework where soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines realize you can come to Mid Missouri and take any AP course that you could take in Virginia. To do all that, we just have to work together.”

Henry has made working together with the community and the installation a hallmark of his eight years with the district. He spent three of those years as chair of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, the support organization for Fort Leonard Wood.

The school district, with its Tiger mascot, has 11 schools, and 75% of its students are military-connected.

Early into his tenure, Henry teamed up with the community on a tough proposition: convincing the community to pass a 20-cent tax levy increase, the first in about 60 years. The increase was needed to maintain the district’s eligibility for B-2 Heavily Impacted Aid from the Department of Defense Education Activity.

“I knew it was going to be a heavy lift,” Henry says. “I knew it was going to take a great deal of communication. I knew that it was going to take quite a bit of partnership with the community.”

The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, the business community and local elected leaders came together to educate the public on the investment’s return. Voters approved the increase, which Henry says “has been vital for our community the last several years.”

Henry also successfully competed for a Defense Community Infrastructure Project grant that is helping remodel a local arts center to expand its pre-school offerings, reducing a wait list for military and civilian families.

Henry knows that when he retires in July, the partnership will continue, because it is ingrained in the relationship.

“It’s a kinship we have with the installation and the community, and our schools are part of it.”

Or, as the district’s tagline puts it, the area’s schools are “Where the Orange and Black Unite with the Red, White and Blue.”

RDML John Menoni

Virginia Beach, Virginia


Rear Admiral John Menoni admits he was in “a little bit of shock” in March 2020 when he first heard that sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt would be headed to Guam after testing positive for COVID-19, but then he “really just kind of immediately got after the problem” by reaching out to Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to keep her apprised of the situation.

After dozens of sailors tested positive and were sent to Guam for treatment, the Roosevelt was ordered to dock at the island. Menoni, then commander of Joint Region Marianas Guam, worked closely with Guerrero and other local leaders on how to treat COVID-19 patients, develop quarantine plans, support the aircraft carrier’s mission and protect the people of Guam. At one point, about 1,000 uniformed, civilian and local personnel were working together to help the Roosevelt’s 4,800 sailors.

“I cannot tell you how humbled I was by the support of the people of Guam, the government of Guam and the military community,” Menoni says.

It was Menoni’s fourth tour on Guam, but he had only been in the current role for six months. Fortunately, after taking command, he had wasted no time developing relationships with Guerrero and others to ensure ongoing cooperation between the military and community leaders, which turned out to be critical when the crisis arose.

“You can’t surge trust. You can’t build trust overnight,” he says. “It takes a while.”

Menoni is being recognized as an ADC Defense Community Champion, an honor for which he was nominated by Guerrero.

Menoni and his family are now in Virginia, where he is commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group Two, headquartered in Virginia Beach, but he says he will always feel a connection to the island.

“My first home is wherever my wife and children are, and Guam is my second home,” he says.

Frank Minosky

Belton, Texas


Frank Minosky spent about half of his 25-year Army career as a first sergeant or command sergeant major and regularly discharged soldiers for drug and alcohol use.

“I bounced a lot of soldiers out of the military, because I was of the opinion at that point that good soldiers don’t do drugs,” Minosky says. “I was of that opinion that good soldiers don’t do alcohol, drink and drive.”

After he retired, he became active in the community of Killeen, Texas, home to Fort Hood, and worked at a Workforce Solutions of Central Texas center helping transitioning soldiers find jobs. Working directly with them made Minosky think again about the soldiers who had struggled.

“As I go back and look now that I’m out, I wonder who took care of those people,” Minosky says. “I booted them knowing they were on drugs. Who cleaned them up? I booted them knowing they had an alcohol problem. Who cleaned them up?”

He became involved with the Fort Hood Veterans Endeavor for Treatment Support (VETS) Court. The first of its kind on an installation, VETS Court helps veterans with service-connected mental health or substance abuse struggles clear their judicial records by seeking treatment and working with a local veteran mentor. Minosky is the VETS Court mentor coordinator.

“I tear up whenever we go up and the judge tears up somebody’s DWI,” he says. “It is no longer in their records, because now they’re clean.”

Minosky recalls how meth nearly derailed the dreams of an ambitious, well-respected Army medic who wanted to become a physician assistant. Fortunately, the VETS Court gave him a second chance.

“When he graduated the course, the future was wide open for him again, which really emotionally got to me, and I said, ‘Yep, this is why I’m here. This is what I should have been doing a long time ago,’” Minosky says.

Minosky retired from his day job at Workforce Solutions last year but still looks for ways to help soldiers realize they have a future.

“I was an infantry guy, rucksack on my back, and I retired as a center administrator for Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. Who’d’ve thunk it? I never dreamed that in a million years,” he says. “But you give that hope and that dream to other soldiers coming out.”

Dr. David Smith

Palmdale, California


It was a hot day at Edwards Air Force Base, California when Dr. David Smith visited an on-base high school to help with a science lab experiment and noticed the classroom’s emergency exit was blocked with soaking wet towels. He asked the teacher why.

“She said, ‘Well, the swamp cooler’s outside, and the floor of the classroom is settled there, so if I don’t block up the door with towels, the water floods the classroom, and it starts to stink out here in the desert.’”

Another classroom at the school had tree roots growing through the floor, Smith recalls.

Smith, in collaboration with the Joint Muroc School District school board and Patrick O’Brien, director of the DOD Office of Economic Adjustment – now the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation – and OEA worked to secure a $150 million grant to update the base’s three schools.

At the time Smith was installation support director at Edwards and collaborated with the greater community to find $30 million needed to match the grant. A few years later, the new elementary school is open, a new intermediate school facility opens this year, and renovations to the high school are ahead of schedule to open after that.

Smith also helped bring STARBASE – a DOD-funded STEM program for fifth and sixth graders in underserved areas – to Edwards.

“We have one week of STEM involvement on a high-tech installation like this. You watch their heads explode. They love it.” Smith, a father of six, says of STARBASE. “It’s tracked, and we find that for those STARBASE attendees, their likelihood of graduating high school and going to college doubles, and their likelihood of being involved in crime is cut in half.”

Smith spends less time at Edwards these days. He’s now director of the Production and Flight Test Facility, 412th Test Wing at Air Force Plant 42, a 5,600-acre campus in Palmdale with more than 12,000 contract and government personnel. Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed-Martin have operations at the plant.

In that position he continues to focus on collaborating with the greater community to improve quality of life for government and contractor employees, such as housing, health care and transportation.

“Let’s lower the fence line,” Smith says. “Let’s figure out how we can make our base more collaborative, more integral to our community. It should not be us-versus-them. It ought to be one mentality of how we’re going to excel.”

Peggy Tadej

Fairfax, Virginia


After ADC launched its “One Military, One Community” initiative in 2020, including a national survey to gauge the state of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in military communities, the North Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) reviewed responses within its region and conducted multiple large-group and small-group discussion and listening sessions to understand the experience of military members and their families. The area is home to Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Marine Corps Base Quantico and other DOD facilities, including, of course, the Pentagon.

“I think it was a little shocking to most of our elected officials and I think to some of the base commanders,” says Peggy Tadej. “I think we all thought that we were very diverse and inclusive. And the results came back, “No, we’re not. We have a ways to go, and that is why we developed the Northern Virginia Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Roadmap, a framework for coordinating our actions in the region to address DEI findings.”

Tadej manages day-to-day military-community relations for NVRC, including forging military-community partnerships through intergovernmental service agreements, memoranda of understanding, regional resilience planning grants, transit agreements and many other venues to support the missions on installations.

Following the region’s activities in support of ADC’s One Military, One Community initiative, the subject of DEI became a regular focus of bi-monthly meetings of the Community, Military & Federal Facility Partnership of Northern Virginia, which Tadej directs.

Victor Angry, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, co-leads the Community, Military, and Federal Facility Partnership of Northern Virginia and has been instrumental in moving these conversations on DEI forward. Many other leaders in the area didn’t know that Angry, a Black Army veteran, had experienced racism growing up in the South.

“His story is really amazing,” Tadej says. “He rose to the highest level of the Army National Guard while experiencing challenges along the way. I think that was a really good eye-opener, and other elected officials were listening and learning.”

Issues identified in the survey data and through listening sessions are captured in the region’s DEI roadmap and address items such as education, health care, public safety, workforce, and housing.

Lorie Vega

Rapid City, South Dakota


The fence around Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota keeps the bad guys out, Lorie Vega says, “but unfortunately it keeps the good guys in and the good guys out, too. It keeps our airmen in and keeps out people that really want to connect with us. It’s hard to break that barrier, so I try to be the barrier breaker.”

Vega is deputy director of 28th Mission Support Group, 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth, tasked as the installation’s communication outreach lead.

“My business card is probably all over western South Dakota, because I get phone calls from random people,” she says. “’Oh, I saw your business card,’ which is great.”

To catch those people’s eyes, Vega designs and buys her own business cards that are “intentionally very colorful and very unique. On the back, it says, ‘Connect with Ellsworth, become a community partner.’ It’s got my contact information, and it says all the stuff I do.”

It’s an innovative approach, and the networking pays off.

She’s able to connect military families looking for jobs. When some airmen needed to move to COVID-19 quarantine dorms, it was Vega who made sure they had internet access by coordinating local partners and other base officials. And when the base opened its new innovation hub, RaiderWerks, Vega went to a local internet provider to bring high-speed internet access to the center at no cost to the base.

Thanks to Vega, the base also has partnerships with more than 15 universities across the country, including the two local universities: South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and Black Hill State University.

Vega typically puts in about 11 hours a day in addition to evening meetings for the long list of local boards she serves on, but she says it’s worth it, because she loves what she does.

“Partnership is key to making sure that not only we take care of our airmen better, we get the airmen involved in the community, but also we say thank you to our community for supporting us,” she says. “Gratitude is a big part of that.”

Kimberly Williams

Jacksonville, North Carolina


There are more than 45,000 service members at Jacksonville, North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station. When Kimberly Williams became the city’s HR chief 10 years ago, she sought to tap into exiting service members for job placement.

“I thought I would use my knowledge, skills and abilities from a lifelong career in human resources to help our transitioning service members, our Guard and reserve members, our veterans and their military spouses secure meaningful employment – not just a job but meaningful employment,” Williams says.

Then she started to look bigger.

Statewide, more than 25,000 service members leave the military each year looking for their next career and home. Williams wanted them to stay in North Carolina, so she worked with the North Carolina Military Affairs Commission to establish a public-private partnership called North Carolina for Military Employment (NC4ME), which is now in its seventh year as a non-profit initiative reporting regularly to the governor’s office.

NC4ME rethinks traditional job search assistance with more of a matchmaking approach, Williams says, citing a low success rate for job seekers attending large, open job fairs.

“You basically get a frisbee and some candy, and you give your resume out, you probably don’t get a call back, and those events have about a 2% success rate,” she says. “We have hiring events. We get 30 or 40 companies, and we identify the jobs that they’re looking to fill. We look at the knowledge, skills and abilities to drive that job. Then we match them to our 200 to 300 veterans looking for jobs, and we set up interviews.”

NC4ME also educates employers on the value veterans can bring to their workplaces, including the wide range of skills that exists in the military.

“I always tell my employers, ‘Look, you trust them with your country, you can certainly trust them with your company,’” Williams says.