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Bridging the gap: MS Gulfport Defense Forum

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jenay Randolph
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Leadership from Keesler Air Force Base participated in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Defense Forum, Dec. 3-4, 2018, at the Courtyard by Marriott Gulfport Beachfront in Gulfport.

The two-day event connected Defense Department leaders at the secretariat level with state leaders, bringing key decision makers to Mississippi show its tremendous assets, facilitate communication between military installation commanders and their associated community leaders.

The forum highlighted issues of mutual concern, addressed gaps in military value and quality of life and educated key stakeholders on the broad array of defense missions in the state so policy makers and stakeholders can help sell and support its missions.

“This top-of-mind awareness is useful as they make decisions that impact our communities,” said event coordinator Joy Saucier, Professional Community and Economic Developer for Community Development at Mississippi Power. “It provides an opportunity for military members from all of Mississippi's installations to gather and share best practices, discuss common issues, and coordinate possible solutions.”

The forum is a product of the Association of Defense Communities, an organization focused on advancing community-military partnerships that promote the value of military installations, strengthen communities and states through collaborative relationships and sustainable regional planning. 


During the event, supporting communities and states addressed changes in military missions and their local and regional economic impact. They cultivated private sector resources to support military infrastructure, energy security, environmental remediation and conservation all while helping communities and states create places for service members, their families and veterans to live, work and play. The format was designed to allow participants to hear from a breadth of subject matter experts, both military and civilian.

“The community had an opportunity to learn more about the robust defense capabilities that exist in our state, as well as ways they can engage to improve the already strong relationship between our military members, installations and our civilian community,” explained Saucier. “This yields benefits on both sides of the fence. The installations had an opportunity to showcase their capabilities, thus shining the light on the robust defense capabilities we have in Mississippi.”

Over 130 people were in attendance over the two days. Participants had the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of military capabilities and opportunities in Mississippi. Attendees included Richard Hartley, Air Force Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Installations, Environment, and Energy and Phyllis Bayer, Naval Assistant Secretary, Installations, Energy, and Environment, along with keynote messages from Congressman Steven Palazzo and Governor Phil Bryant.

“This event was very beneficial for the leadership of Keesler because it gave us the opportunity to say thank you and voice our gratitude for the great partnership that we already have with the community and it gives us a chance to build for the future,” expressed Col. Debra Lovette, 81st Training Wing commander. “It was great to be able to come together and identify the challenges and see that we are all invested in helping overcome those challenges across the Gulf Coast.”