“We need to have open and candid conversations with each other, we need to be able to gather feedback and we need to understand what each other’s needs are,” Schwickerath said. “This goes beyond our fence line; we’re talking local, state (and) federal partnerships as well. Because the community outside our fence line needs to understand what we’re doing here, what our vision is and what our values are. Because a lot of us carry those same values and those same visions.”
Recently, the base held an active-shooter exercise in which police and first responders from surrounding municipalities were included in the planning. That not only helped meet the base’s needs but also gave local officials a better understanding how they might integrate their potential response plans.
“We must have those solid relationships with our local, state and federal partners that in turn enhance our overall mission effectiveness because we are able to provide those emergency services and keep people safe or render aid to those who are in need,” Schwickerath said.
An example of the value of fostering those relationships is seen in the improvements underway at Gate 15A, he added. The work will modernize a vital access control point, but construction does adversely impact personnel entering and leaving the base, as well as commuters using nearby traffic corridors around the installation.
Schwickerath said surrounding communities, apprised of the project and its duration, were able to take steps to help mitigate any temporary difficulties.
At the project’s conclusion, the gate is expected to benefit the base and its neighbors with widened lanes, safety and security features, modern equipment, and a capability to process inbound and outbound traffic more safely and efficiently. In turn, that should clear congested traffic routes.
According to Schwickerath, the effort is important to the outcome.
“If we don’t arm and equip our Defenders with the ability or the most modern technology, how are we supposed to serve our patrons of the base and serve the folks that work here?” Schwickerath asked. “How are we supposed to help them get on and off base in a in a safe, timely manner? So I think that’s crucial.”
He says the first step in protecting the nation is reaching across WPAFB and outside the gates to establish connections and foster strong relationships with people on and off base.
“We can only better serve those, when we know what our community needs are,” Schwickerath said. “Establishing and maintaining deliberate partnerships with the local community and across the installation instills trust between all parties.”
The payoff of this relationship-building is breeding trust and understanding and showcasing Wright-Patt’s value to the Miami Valley and surrounding region.