About the Program
Every day America’s defense communities are working to create welcoming and supportive spaces for service members and their families to live and thrive. As the home to our military, these communities recognize the unique challenges and hard work needed to ensure military families are made to feel valued.
The Great American Defense Communities program shines a light on the regions and individuals that are making a difference. The program was designed to recognize and celebrate communities with an exceptional commitment to improving the lives of service members, veterans and their families. The Great American Defense Communities is made possible through ADC’s partnership with USAA.
This year our program will include a special focus on community recovery, resilience and racial equality.
To learn more about past Great American Defense Communities, watch their stories on ADC’s GADC YouTube channel.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Cynthia Kuehner, commander of Naval Medical Forces Support Command, waves to the crowd during the Texas Cavaliers Fiesta River Parade June 21, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio was recognized as a Great American Defense Community in 2017. Air Force photo by Brian J. Valencia
2022 Great American Defense Communities
Antelope Valley, California
The Antelope Valley is located in northern Los Angeles County, California at the western tip of the Mojave Desert. Home of Edwards Air Force Base, Air Force Plant 42, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and more than 80 prominent aerospace, commercial space, defense companies—the region is also known as “Aerospace Valley.”
In recent years the community has demonstrated a deep commitment to military families and veterans—creative projects aimed at improving quality of life such as a proposal to covert an unused 45,000 square-foot two-story building adjacent to Plant 42 into a center to serve veterans, their families, and the community. The City of Palmdale recently completed Courson Arts Colony, an affordable housing complex with a number of units set aside to serve medically complex veterans.
In addition, a local grassroots nonprofit called Vets4Veterans empowers local veterans who are suffering the physical and psychological wounds of war to successfully reintegrate into the community. The nonprofit was founded by a group of Vietnam combat veterans who were attending a PTSD therapy group at the AV Veterans Center.
Florida’s Space Coast
Florida’s Space Coast is home to 3,835 active duty, reserve, and guard personnel and more than 68,000 veterans. There’s a reason so many retired military personnel call Space Coast home—it’s one of most military-friendly communities in one of the most military-friendly states. The region is filled with organizations dedicated to active-duty, veterans, and families.
In August of 2020 the Hiring Our Heroes Space Coast Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN) was created to serve as an opportunity for peer-to-peer networking among military spouses. This program helps military spouses get integrated with the Space Coast community prior to arriving and helps military spouses gain access to educational and employment opportunities. Within the first year there were over 300 military spouses in this group. Over half of the members reported un- or underemployment which highlighted a clear need to take action. From this, the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ) was born. Today, MSEEZ is a working group of volunteers including businesses, non-profits and government entities that tackle military spouse un- and underemployment through a Hire, Train, and Advocate model.
The Northern Virginia region is home to three bases: Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Fort Belvoir, and Marine Corps Base Quantico. In recent years, numerous positions opened in the region for cyber professional. The Community, Military, and Federal Facility Partnership of Northern Virginia’s Cyber Training & Roadmap was created to address this workforce need. The partnership created programs in local high schools, veteran trainings, and education pathways for cyber jobs. In addition, the first regional intergovernmental Support Agreement (R-IGSA) was implemented between the Army, US Marine Corps (USMC), and Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) for road maintenance supplies and services. This Partnership provides an ongoing framework to identify requirements and needs amongst the services to better support partnerships in the region.
The Northern Virginia Regional Commission has held regular listening sessions to address diversity and inclusion issues in the region. These sessions seek to provide an opportunity for military members and/or family members to share experiences and perspectives about diversity, equity, inclusion the DMV region, and then plan for action.
Known as “the best kept secret in the Air Force,” Arnold Air Force Base is nestled in over 40,000 acres in middle Tennessee and the only active-duty Air Force base in the state. More than 5,500 active duty, members of the guard, reservists, retirees, veterans, and their families bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to the Tullahoma area.
To fulfill the need for an advanced aerospace and engineering workforce in the region—Arnold Air Force Base, the region’s Hands-On Science Center (HOSC), and the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) partner to support Engineer’s Week, STEM competitions, and science projects for military children at local schools.
West Valley Partners, Arizona
The 13 communities around Luke Air Force Base are known as the West Valley Partners—a group of municipalities committed to supporting the base and improving the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. Currently, the group is actively advocating for important legislation at the state-level that will make lives easier for military families stationed in Arizona for generations to come. For example: West Valley Partners is leading the charge to waive most state licensing fees for any active-duty military service member’s spouse, and any honorably discharged veteran who has been discharged no more than two years before application.
The West Valley Partners includes elected officials from Avondale, Buckeye, El Mirage, Gila Bend, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Maricopa County, Peoria, Phoenix, Surprise, Tolleson, Wickenburg and Youngtown.