Robins, community leaders sign partnership agreements

wcrenshaw@macon.comJune 24, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- The Air Force is turning to communities to help bases cut operating costs, and on Monday, Robins Air Force Base became one of the first to ink agreements.

About 60 base and community leaders gathered at Flint Energies on Russell Parkway to sign agreements related to medical training, law enforcement firing ranges and work-study partnerships with colleges and technical schools.

The agreements are only a start, officials said, and after the signing attendees joined breakout sessions to work on other possibilities.

“We have some partnerships that in a very short amount of time we have brought together,” Col. Patricia Ross, vice commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, told the group. “These are going to be a value both to us at Robins and to you.”

One agreement will allow base medical personnel to get training at local hospitals. As one example, physical therapists on base can get annual training at Houston Medical Center. Col. James Dienst, commander of the 78th Medical Group, explained that the base has a clinic, but the hands-on training must be done at a hospital.

Previously those personnel were sent to another base with a hospital, but with automatic spending cuts that went into effect in March, the Department of Defense eliminated just about all spending for training and travel. Those personnel now will get that training locally, and in return the hospital will get some extra help for clients needing physical therapy.

Dienst said the initiative will save about $15,000 per year. Other partnerships also are being explored with other area hospitals.

“What we’ve done just up until this point has been quite remarkable with the willingness and effort with our team here in Middle Georgia,” Dienst said.

Also, the base library is joining forces with the Houston County library system. The two will share their collections, which will allow users of the base library to order any book in the county library system, and those off base can get books from the base library. Couriers will deliver the books between the libraries.

That might be of particular interest to anyone without base access but with an interest in military history or military books, because the base library has a substantial collection of those.

The base has a state-of-the-art firing range, with an automated bullet collection system, but a few months ago it was down for maintenance. However, deploying personnel are required to get firearms training and were having to be bused to other bases. Now agreements have been signed with local law enforcement agencies that will allow base personnel to use those firing ranges, and local law enforcement will be able to use the base firing range.

Six area colleges and technical schools signed work-study agreements in which students will be able to do internships on base. Ross said it allows students to get a feel for working at the base if they are considering it for future employment.

Other potential partnerships being explored include recreation, a park-and-ride system and others.

Ross encouraged community members to come forward with any ideas they may have.

“There are still other ways that we may not have even imagined that we can partner to mutually benefit both of us,” she said. “We are willing to look at any and everything.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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