First AFRL civic leaders panel includes trio of Dayton professionals

Three Dayton professionals find a place on nationwide roster.

A Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce executive, a Clayton professional consultant and a Beavercreek dentist have been named to a panel of civic leaders brought together to advise Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) leadership — and to spread the word about what AFRL does.

Named to the panel are Stephanie Keinath, vice president for strategic initiatives at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Joseph Palm, owner and dentist at Keep Smiling Dental Group; and Karen M. R. Townsend, president of KTownsend Consulting in Clayton.

“They know they matter, they know they’re relevant, and we know they’re there,” Lenell Kern, AFRL strategic engagement team lead, said in an interview.

They join representatives of AFRL communities across the United States, including a mayor, a retired educator, a robotics instructor, economic development professionals and others.

AFRL is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but has a presence in Rome N.Y., New Mexico and elsewhere.

“As a member of the chamber team for the last 16 years, I think really understanding the role and impact that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has played in our community has just been part of our job,” Keinath said in an interview.

She grew up in a Navy Reserve family. Her father worked at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, also at Wright-Patterson, for years.

“I grew up not knowing some of the projects he was working on,” Keinath recalled. “Always there was an air of mystery about the really cool stuff he had to work on.”

The AFRL Civic Leader Program is “a major component of our Air and Space Force strategy designed to facilitate information sharing between senior leaders and the public,” said AFRL Commander Maj. Heather Pringle. “We are excited to strengthen these vital connections to accelerate our S&T (science and technology).”

“It’s first and groundbreaking for AFRL, and it was Gen. Pringle’s brainstorm,” Kern said.

“While I am not a part of the Air or Space Force, my goal is to utilize my expertise and experience in support of the mission of AFRL,” Townsend said in an AFRL release.

Credit: Reginald Worthen

Credit: Reginald Worthen

The 13-member volunteer panel will serve for two years.

Pringle for some time has wanted to launch a program like this, Kern said. Members were picked from 19 nominees, and Kern said they are viewed as part of an extended AFRL family.

“Whoever became a part of this team became a part of AFRL,” Kern said.

Credit: Caroline Williams

Credit: Caroline Williams

They will meet AFRL researchers, scientists and leaders ― and it’s AFRL’s hope that they will spread the word about the lab’s work.

Kern said that while it’s not unusual for civilians to be unaware of AFRL, the lab has found that even some uniformed members of the Air Force have a lot to learn about the laboratory and its global work.

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“Why would a two-striper (Airman First Class) maintainer even know that there was a 10,000-member-strong Air Force laboratory?” Kern said.

AFRL wants members to bring to the table “what their needs are, how can we better partner, how we can better work with their localities,” she said.

“We wanted genuine, authentic real troops, and that’s what I call them,” Kern added. “We wanted Airmen.”

These are not paid positions, she said. These are volunteer slots, and participants will be expected to pay their own expenses when they travel.

One of the group’s first gatherings will be a meeting with lab executive directors and a tour of the lab facilities at Wright-Patterson, possibly in early May, Kern said.

The next meeting will be at a location to be determined, possibly New Mexico or Rome, N.Y.

The group will include members from the Albuquerque N.M. Regional Economic Alliance near Kirtland Air Force Base; the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce near Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida; the president of an educational foundation near Eglin; a business ambassador from Arlington, Va. and others.

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