Local officials in Missouri turn out for allies, Air Guard

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Staff and students from the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center and members of the 139th Airlift Wing had supper Wednesday at City Hall.

“It’s always good to rub elbows with the people that protect us,” said Ron Hook, Western District county commissioner.

For Mayor Bill Falkner, the supper in the lobby of City Hall was a way to showcase the partnership between the city and the Missouri Air National Guard.

“Anytime we can show support, it just makes the relationship stronger,” the mayor said. “And it was a nice way to highlight some of our historic architecture.”

The supper at City Hall was exactly why Col. Ed Black, the school’s commander, wanted to bring more than 50 international students out on a cold evening, too.

“In the 20 years the city has been host to our international students, this is the first time we’ve ever come to City Hall,” Mr. Black said.

Students from Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Japan started arriving over the weekend and have had three days of intense classroom instruction. They will be flying today and Friday, using what they’ve learned in the classroom.

“We want to do what we can to provide support for the Air Guard,” said R.T. Turner, presiding county commissioner. “Especially with the nation’s military facing a second round of sequestration.”

The county’s other commissioner, Dan Hausman from the Eastern District, said the community realizes that the Air Guard certainly is a big asset.

Erin Montgomery, a fifth-grader at Coleman Elementary School, came with her father, an instructor at the training center. When the mayor found out it was her 11th birthday, he got everyone to sing in several languages a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” to the smiling young lady.

The Belgian aircraft commander, Commandant Pieter Palmans, 33, said the training has been professional and motivated the aircrew.

Tuesday night, Mr. Palmans and some of his aircrew stopped Downtown and ate at Piatto 614 on Francis Street.

“The food was great, to be sure,” he said.

Word going around the lobby Wednesday night was that some aircrews wanted to eat at Bad Art Bistro tonight.

The Belgian aircrew has enjoyed staying at Stoney Creek Inn and doing some shopping on the Belt Highway, Mr. Palmans said.

Another visitor this week is Air Force Col. Bruce Willett, who’s with the Air Education and Training Command’s international unit at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. A navigator, Mr. Willett took a class at the training center about 15 years ago.

“I came then and people come now, because these guys give you the stuff you want before you go into a hostile environment,” he said.

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