12/18/07 — County gets its own KC-135

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County gets its own KC-135

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 18, 2007 1:45 PM

For those gathered inside a hangar on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Monday, the ceremony that brought them together was about more than a few words painted on a KC-135R Stratotanker.

But each would tell you that the words, themselves, were fitting -- that when 916th Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Fritz Linsenmeyer and Wayne County Commission Chairman Bud Gray came together to expose the new name of an Air Force aircraft, it "felt right."

Linsenmeyer said "The Spirit of Wayne County" -- formerly aircraft 623509 -- honors the spirit of a community that has embraced the airmen and mission on Seymour Johnson since day one.

"I hope and expect that this will further cement that friendship," he said.

Commissioner J.D. Evans believes it will.

But he admits that "it will be hard" to increase community support for the base and its airmen.

After all, how do you significantly improve such a strong bond, he asked.

"I think it's just the friendly atmosphere (airmen) create when they are in our presence," Evans said. "You want to embrace them."

Military retiree Andy Anderson agreed.

Now a county representative himself, the Air Force colonel said he knows just how much the community looks after its military.

So the aircraft, for him, "embodies a spirit of unity and cooperation" that has lasted generations.

"We here in Wayne County truly appreciate the military," he said. "We're proud to be a part of this community with you."

After the ceremony, officials from on and off the base ate cake and shared stories -- a fitting ending to an afternoon about the connection between those in and out of flight suits, some said.

And as they left, even though that KC-135 was still there in that hangar, they knew some day soon, "The Spirit of Wayne County" would be in the skies over communities across the nation and world.

"Fitting," Evans said.

"We're just so proud to have this base here," he said. "We really are."

This is not the first time 916th leadership has dedicated an aircraft to a community outside the base gates.

Last year, "The Spirit of Goldsboro" was unveiled.