Prestigious Abilene Trophy lands in Dover

Members of the Dover Air Force Base and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce gather Wednesday at the Air Mobility Command Museum to award the Abeline Trophy. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

From left, Chief Mastter Sgt. Sarah Sparks and Col. Dawn Lancaster of Dover Air Force Base; Yvonne Batts and Kristina Jones with Abilene; Col. Michael Grismer; with Central Delaware Chamber members Cristal Brenann, Judy Diogo, Janie Libby and Lynne Schaefer and Col. Eric Brandes with DAFB at the AMC Museum Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER – Judy Diogo said the reasons are simple why the community supports the mission of Dover Air Force Base – and it’s not just about watching mammoth C-5s and C-17s stretching their wings over the city.

Ms. Diogo, president of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, said there is a mutual respect and admiration between the community and its high-flying neighbors.

It is that bond that led the Air Mobility Command to recognize the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the Dover community as the 2015 AMC Community Support Award winner for the third time since the honor was established in 1999.

Members of the CDCC and D.A.F.B. officials accepted the prestigious – and heavy – Abilene Trophy in front of a packed house including several local dignitaries at Dover’s Air Mobility Command Force Museum on Wednesday evening.

“It’s not just a base in our community, it’s a family,” Ms. Diogo said. “Here, we’re all one. We really truly are ‘Team Dover.’

“These folks (at D.A.F.B.) are our neighbors. They sit with us in church, their children go to school with our children, we shop in the same places, we eat at the same restaurants … it’s just so phenomenal.”

The winner of the Abilene Trophy is determined by a selection group of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee in Texas with final approval by AMC.

In order to be considered for the award, the CDCC presented a submission packet that showcased the air base’s Public-Private Partnership (P4 Initiative), their Honorary Commander program, CDCC programs and events such as the Bluesuiters Golf Tournament and Leadership Central Delaware Program, Dorm to Gourm, as well as other volunteer activities.

Col. Michael W. Grismer Jr., commander, 436th Airlift Wing , D.A.F.B, said the award reveals the true nature of the relationship between the base and the community.

“I will tell you that this community is incredible and when you look at the opportunities that we have for partnership, every time we’ve asked they’ve come forward and said, ‘What can we do next?’,” Col. Grismer said. “It is certainly an amazing partnership and benefits us all.”

Dover, which was officially named the Abilene Trophy winner on May 12 at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, joined Charleston, South Carolina, as the only three-time winners of the award.

Dover also won the award in 1999 and 2008.

The Air Mobility Command Museum served as the perfect backdrop for Wednesday’s festivities, surrounded by legendary cargo aircraft, as well as many others.

“We are thrilled to have been selected as the winners of the Abilene Trophy,” Ms. Diogo said. “It is a tremendous honor – one that we do not take lightly.

“It is so important that we keep educating everyone in Delaware, not just in Dover, but in Delaware, of what a treasure we have here with our friends at Dover Air Force Base.”

The Abilene Trophy is a striking monument that features an eagle in flight on its base.

Ms. Diogo was happy it had returned to Dover.

“People say it takes a village – to win the Abilene it takes a stellar base and a stellar community – and we have both,” she said.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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