Yuma Marine base welcomes new community ambassador

Yuma Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Col. David Suggs recently tapped Yuma County Chamber of Commerce executive director John Courtis to head up a voluntary auxiliary commander position, which will put the chamber leader in a hands-on position.

The role was created out of Suggs’ suggestion that the local military community and the civilian community should collaborate more. The idea is also relative to the Air Force’s stationing of an honorary commander at each of its bases. The main goal of the position is to bring the Marines and the surrounding population together to promote awareness of what the MCAS is trying to achieve while sharing with the base what the community can offer to the local marines.

“I’m so, so very honored, humbled and excited to have been chosen to be the first auxiliary commander of MCAS Yuma,” Courtis said a statement. “I look forward to the mission of helping the colonel and his staff get the word out to the community about the transformational work they do protecting our freedoms and the amazing men and women that are doing it.”

The Yuma chamber has always had a solid connection with the MCAS through its Military Affairs Committee and Courtis is no stranger to this relationship with his involvement with Yuma 50, a similar post to his new one that serves as a voice for the local military installations.

Marines in the area have been known to get involved with the community through events and volunteerism. But Suggs wanted to enhance this relationship by connecting the base with its surroundings and enjoying the area. Another projected goal of the role is to foster a supportive relationship with locals by keeping them informed about the varied missions of the base and its squadrons while also increasing military involvement with civic projects.

“There are human beings there,” Courtis added. “They’re Marines but they’re people, too. They choose to do this. They put themselves in harm’s way. We have to tell their stories … spread the word about MCAS and the men and women who are doing great things.”

Suggs spent about a year developing the auxiliary commander role, which he outlined with two pieces of criteria: the position couldn’t be served by someone with military experience and it couldn’t go to someone in political office so to avoid partisan influence and bias.

Courtis is tapped to serve for two years in the auxiliary position then continue on as an ambassador after a new commander is selected to replace him. Courtis will sit in on the base’s meetings to get an idea of what needs to be communicated to the public. But since it’s a new role, Courtis is expected to make the role his own.

Nick Esquer

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