he Association of Defense Communities and USAA in March announced the 2023 Great American Defense Communities. The five communities highlighted below join 42 others that have received the honor in the eight years of the program. Florida tops the list with five honored communities, followed by Texas with four and California and Georgia with three apiece.
The City of El Paso, Texas is home to more than 2.5 million people and to Fort Bliss, the second-largest military installation in the U.S. and the single largest employer in the region. The city’s Military and Veteran Affairs Department “sets a high standard,” the award citation says. “Much of the city’s outreach strategy is guided by the landmark El Paso Veterans Needs Assessment that was launched in 2020. These efforts are supported by the work of Endeavors, a local non-profit organization.
Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB), Alaska, the second largest borough in Alaska, is home to the cities of Fairbanks and North Pole. The FNSB supports multiple DoD missions: US Army Garrison (USAG) Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, USAG Fort Greely and Clear Space Force Station. “There are several innovative programs and facilities in the Borough geared toward addressing the mental health challenges that can come with living somewhere as remote as Alaska’s interior,” says the citation.
Fort George G. Meade Region, Maryland, located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., is home to all six branches of the military. Fort Meade is Maryland’s largest employer and has the third largest workforce of any Army installation in the continental United States with more than 62,000 military and civilians. “One of the region’s biggest partnership success stories is the transformation of Fort George G. Meade’s historic Kuhn Hall into a state-of-the-art Education and Resiliency Center,” says the citation, driven by the Fort Meade Alliance and the Fort Meade Alliance. The facility opened in November 2022.
Greater Omaha, Nebraska, is home to Offutt Air Force Base, the center of Strategic Deterrence and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. “Military-community partnerships were tested in recent years with historic flood in 2019 that damaged 137 buildings on base, the COVID-19 pandemic and a much-needed replacement of the base’s single primary runway — but stakeholders agree these challenges brought this defense community closer together, moving forward into a brighter, more resilient future.”
The Montgomery-River Region in Alabama, home to Maxwell Air Force Base, committed with the State of Alabama to partnering with Air University to establish the Maxwell-River Region Partnership for Educational Excellence, focused on improving the quality of education available to all families. In 2021 the State of Alabama launched the Mentorship-Hub to provide additional support services to military spouses. The Alabama Mentorship-Hub is a first-in-nation statewide virtual network of military spouses, mentors and advocates to bring 24/7 peer-to-peer mentorship to military spouses already living in or moving to the state.