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A Wing Picnic that honors our entire wing family

Command Chief Master Sgt. Shane Clark, center, discusses options for the wing’s new Family Appreciation Day with Staff Sgt. Eduardo Benitez, left, and Staff Sgt. Joe DeVos on base, Feb. 25. The event, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6, consolidates several wing events and is intended to increase attendance among members, families and retirees. Airmen on shift work, who normally cannot attend the picnic off base, like the on-base concept because it will allow them to participate. (US Air Force photo/Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Command Chief Master Sgt. Shane Clark, center, discusses options for the wing’s new Family Appreciation Day with Staff Sgt. Eduardo Benitez, left, and Staff Sgt. Joe DeVos on base, Feb. 25. The event, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6, consolidates several wing events and is intended to increase attendance among members, families and retirees. Airmen on shift work, who normally cannot attend the picnic off base, like an on-base concept because it will allow them to participate. (US Air Force photo/Maj. Gabe Johnson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- For years we've celebrated our annual Wing Picnic off base to reach out to our members, families, retirees and friends. Only recently has it become evident that though it's great fun and extremely well done, the Picnic has begun to miss the mark.

The Picnic, the Haunted Hangar and the Steak Fry have long been staples of the unit's social calendar. However, the fantastic efforts to bring people together at the Picnic, held every April drill at Udall Park in northeast Tucson, have fallen short in recent years as evident by dwindling participation.

With the April Unit Training Assembly around the corner, wing leadership has asked me to announce that these three events will be combined and moved to the November UTA weekend and will take on a form that better serves Airmen and families.

I cannot overstate how important these events are to enhancing morale, building unit cohesion and for just saying "thank you" for all you do and for the sacrifices your loved ones make in support of your service to country and state.

Each one is an opportunity to enjoy each other's company in a social setting - something we can all agree is important. But it's something we can do better.

Though the plan is currently in concept phase, it will be called "Wing Family Appreciation Day" and will be held here at the base instead of the park.

It will incorporate aspects of the Picnic, the Steak Fry and the Haunted Hangar and most importantly it will help meet our goal to reach all 1,500 of our members, their families, and our retirees.

Saturday, Nov. 5, will remain our traditional day for the Annual Awards and Hometown Heroes Salute. On Sunday, Nov. 6, we will use the duty day to honor you and your families.

Details like the kind of food served, cost, tickets, event times and attractions, are yet to be worked out, but they will be communicated as November approaches.

Our hope is to structure the day in such a way that it's simple for your families to accompany you to the UTA where there will be food, beverages, jumping castles, video games, pot lucks, chili cook offs, car and bike shows, and more.

The day will also be your chance to show your family what you do when you put on your uniform and report to drill.

Shops on base will be asked to open their doors for our guests. We can have F-16s, fire trucks, tools, equipment and demonstrations to showcase our talents and let them see what "mom and dad do in the Air Guard."

And with the day so close to Halloween, our kids could have one more day in costume to participate in a fun and safe 'Trunk or Treat' on base.

These are just some ideas I've heard from Airmen when I ask them what they'd like to see at a wing-wide event. Really, the possibilities are endless and you can have an effect on the success of our first Family Appreciation Day.

Give us your ideas and input. Tell us what would make the event special for you, for spouses, for kids, and for retirees. I encourage you to talk openly with your first sergeants, chiefs and commanders.

We'll need your ideas and your help. Get involved. Join a planning committee. This will be our one big weekend for the year so let's make it one that we can all be proud and enthusiastic about.