Military “Support Groups” exist at installations throughout the Department of Defense. The size, objectives, financial support, level of activity and names of these groups vary greatly.
While many Support Groups dedicate their efforts to ensuring their associated military installation is not closed or reduced in size, this was not the original, nor the current objective of the NST. However, the preservation of Nellis’ and Creech’s contribution to national security is an objective of the NST.
The Nellis Support Team (NST) was begun by Major General Zachary Taylor, a former Warfare Center commander. General Taylor provided periodic briefings at Nellis for local business leaders like Walt Casey, Frank Scott, Jim Cashman, Jr., J.A. Tiberti, Jack Libby, Elaina Blake, Angie Wallin, Chuck Ruthe, Ashley Hall and Harry Wald. In the mid-1980’s, Jim Cashman III and Joe W. Brown joined the group.
Circa 1989, Jim Cashman III became the first commander of the NST, and Major General Billy McCoy assumed command of the Warfare Center. Together with Joe Brown, the NST grew into a more active and social organization. Ashley Hall became the NST Commander in 1992, and Joe Brown succeeded him in 1994. With the assistance of Billy McCoy and the then Center Commander, Major General Dick Bethurem, Joe Brown added many memorable Civic Leader Tours and “CRUD Games” at the Nellis Officers Club. The active members in the mid-90s included Colonel Scotty Wetzel, Chuck Ruthe, Postmaster Joe Ryan, Norm Jenkins, Steve Wynn, John Mauricio, Jim Kropid, Dominic Panacio, Fred Gibson, Dan Reichartz, Senator Jack Regan, Mel Larsen, Jim Abraham, Lloyd “Boots” Boothby, Richie Clyne, Joe Stockett and Diane Ursick Jett.
In 1996, Nellis experienced serious encroachment pressures on its Eastern border from private property owners. The NST Commander, Joe Brown, solicited the assistance of a local developer, Randy Black (a member of the Las Vegas Planning Commission) to lead the opposition and prevent incompatible zoning changes. As a result of Randy Black’s leadership and zoning acumen, the NST was successful in protecting the Nellis mission. Subsequently, Randy was selected to succeed Joe Brown as the NST Commander. Warfare Center commanders during this period included Major Generals Marv Esmond and Wally Moorhead.
Randy Black brought in an energetic group of new members. In 2000, he and the new Warfare Center commander, Major General L.D. Johnston, provided the NST a new structure with an “Honorary Commander” program. New members in this program included Randy Campanale, Michael Gaughan, Chris Villareale, Dan Van Epp, Blake Sartini and Gary Ackerman. The NST’s “Honorary Commander” program involved the attachment of a prominent member of the Las Vegas community to a specific Nellis unit. Originally, 51 units and agencies were identified, with a civilian leader assigned as an “Honorary Commander.” Additionally, units and agencies not aligned under the command of the Warfare Center, e.g., “RED HORSE,” were also assigned partner members of the NST.
The first “Assumption of Command” for “NST Honorary Commanders” was conducted at the Nellis Officers’ Club in 2001, with unit/agency flags passing from military leaders to the “Honorary Commanders.” As more community leaders joined the NST, additional military units/agencies were added and some positions were double-billeted. Individuals who were previously members of the military were called “NST Vice Commanders,” to reserve the “NST Commander” positions for civilian members.
In 2005, Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field was renamed Creech Air Force Base, in honor of General Bill Creech, a former commander of Tactical Air Command (now Air Combat Command). Creech is located 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and fell under the oversight of Nellis. In 2008, “Honorary Commanders” were also selected to fill unit positions at Creech.
Until 2011, NST members and “Honorary Commanders” were selected and assigned to units by the “Honorary Commander” of the Warfare Center, Randy Black. Recurring events included an annual “Honorary Commander, Change of Command,” NST “Commanders’ Calls,” social functions such as Christmas parties, and DV Receptions for visiting military and national leadership.
In the 2011 – 2012 timeframe, as more “Honorary Commander” programs were established around the Air Force, the Pentagon institutionalized and standardized the workings of “Honorary Commander” efforts. An Air Force regulation was written, and Nellis’ 99th Air Base Wing developed a Supplemental Operating Instruction. The most significant change to Nellis/Creech NST operations was the technical separation of the NST from the bases’ “Honorary Commander” selection. However, there remained a strong connection between the NST and the participating “Honorary Commanders.”
From 2002 to 2013, the Center commanders were: Major Generals Steve Wood, Steve Goldfein, Mike Worden, Steve Hoog, Ted Kresge, Bill Hyatt and Jeff Lofgren.
From the inception of the “Honorary Commander” program in 2000, to 2012, the NST raised over $1,000,000 to “Support Airmen”…because “It’s What We Do!
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