VANDBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The Honorary Commander Program at Vandenberg Air Force base is a paired partnership between local leaders and base leadership. The distinction of the Honorary Commander position comes with a two-year term filled with exposure to Vandenberg missions through a series of tours, volunteering engagements, shadowing programs, and heritage celebrations.
A positive relationship that has fostered through the program is with the community leader Bob Hatch, who has served as the 30th Space Wing Honorary Commander for several years.
“This is not just a ceremonial position, said Hatch. ”This is a working relationship where you interface with your military counterpart, get to know them and their mission, and also introduce them to what you do.”
The position offers community leaders a variety of Vandenberg connections and in some cases, to top leaders of the military. Such was the case for Hatch who conveyed pride in the relationships fostered.
Military leaders value the program because it creates opportunities for Airmen and Guardians to gain industry knowledge, pursue professional development through local networks, and learn about the recreational programs in their areas.
“Our honorary commanders provide invaluable insight to the interests and concerns of the local community,” said Col. Anthony Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander. “Bob has made a commitment to being present for our service members in a way that goes beyond his position as the honorary commander. He is a friend to Vandenberg.”
At its core, the purpose of the Honorary Commander Program, as an extension of the Air Force Civic Leaders Program, is to educate non-military members and local leaders by providing up-close and personal exposure to Airmen and Guardian missions and military customs.
Hatch reflected on a time he was permitted exclusive access to viewing a rocket launch, “It was surprising to see all of the parts that came together in one room to make the mission happen,” said Hatch. He found the opportunity to participate rewarding.
The 30th Space Wing mission to “launch and test above the rest,” is an exciting feature for honorary commanders to witness. Another more routine aspect of the program is exposure to military customs and ceremonies.
Hatch is known by many units for his attendance and support of military ceremonies. He noted that the recognition of quality performance is one of the most rewarding aspects of his involvement in the program. “The least a grateful nation can do is to recognize good performance,” he said. “It advances the notion that you’re appreciated, and it promotes the spirit of young members.”
During his time as an honorary commander, Hatch supported the Annual Awards ceremony every year in conjunction with his position as chair of the Military Affairs Committee and with his networks as former Chief Executive Office of the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce. He shared how he prides himself on being able to foster a regional understanding for the base mission and members.
“This relationship goes both ways. I am able to recognize our troops for the hard work they do, and these businesses are able to gain exposure to one of the most economically stimulating groups in the region,” commented Hatch.
Upon completion of an honorary commander’s two-year term, Vandenberg Public Affairs hosts an annual “Hail and Farewell” change of command ceremony. While this ceremony opens the door to new partnerships for the base and its leadership, the relationships established through the two-year term do not conclude with this ceremony.
When asked what advice or words he has for future honorary commanders, Hatch said, “You want people who show up, demonstrate interest, and who are invested in getting to know the Airmen and Guardians.”
The Vandenberg Public Affairs office manages the honorary commander’s program. Honorary commander candidates are required to be U.S. citizens of good character with a leadership position in local, regional, or national affairs. They cannot be an employee of the federal government, an active or retired member of the military, and must not hold financial interests that conflict with their role as a Vandenberg partner. If you have questions about the program or would like to offer a nomination, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with a biography and a justification.