09/07/07 — Chamber is offering tours of SJAFB

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Chamber is offering tours of SJAFB

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 7, 2007 2:03 PM

New to town? Always wanted to see what's actually behind the gates at the end of Berkeley Boulevard and Slocumb Street?

Now is the time, as the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce prepares to begin offering free tours of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and continuing on the last Thursday of every month thereafter, the tours are scheduled to last about two and a half hours.

Visitors will get the opportunity to view almost the entire base, from the educational center, the chapel, the dining facilities, the dorm and the recreation areas, to Heritage Park, where every jet from Seymour Johnson's history is on display.

"We are, in fact, a city within a city. It doesn't look like the traditional military base you may see in different films. What you'll see is more like a college campus," said Robin DeMark, chief of civic outreach for the 4th Fighter Wing.

But the highlights of the tour will be the chance to see up close and personal, the 4th Fighter Wing Security Forces' military working dog demo team, a F-15E Strike Eagle and its munitions, and a KC-135R Stratotanker.

"That will enable them to see the 4th Fighter Wing's mission, as well as the 916th Air Refueling Wing's mission," Ms. DeMark said.

Tour buses, provided by the base, will arrive at the chamber at 9:30 a.m., depart the William Street parking lot at 9:45 and return at noon.

Seating is limited to 40 people per tour.

People interested in taking the tour must sign up at least five business days in advance. Those 18 years and older also must provide the name on their driver's license and driver's license number. On the day of the tour, they will be required to show photo identification.

"That's basically for security purposes," said Betsy Roseman, director of Wayne County Travel and Tourism.

But the tours are open to anyone who is interested, whether they are from Goldsboro, Wayne County or beyond.

"From the chamber's perspective, it's a unique way for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to get its name out. We've already gotten some interest from out of town," Mrs. Roseman said. "We're very excited about this opportunity.

The first tour is already sold out, but Ms. DeMark promised there will be many more.

"We have many requests that come from the public about base tours and we just wanted to partner with the chamber to open these up to the general public. Our wing commander, Col. Steven Kwast wants the community to know this Air Force base is also their Air Force base. We're very proud of our service to the community and our service to the U.S. military," she said. "We're going to do this consistently, and we're looking forward to it. Both of us -- the base and the chamber -- are very enthusiastic about this. We really expect it to grow."

People interested in future tours should call the chamber at 734-2241.