Gov. Rick Scott calls it an "important part of our state's history."
Mayor Bob Buckhorn points to the people.
And University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft dubs it a "pillar of the Tampa Bay region."
The trio of Florida leaders are among the first to post video diaries online in support of MacDill Air Force Base after the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance launched a community pride campaign called My MacDill. The idea is to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year and thwart a potential closure, something Washington lawmakers have combated for years despite the Pentagon's belief that it has superfluous facility capacity nationwide.
The initiative encourages Tampa Bay residents to share their experiences and stories about the base. The campaign organizers are directing people to MyMacDill.com, where they can upload stories, photos and videos about the base.
Alliance president John Schueler and retired Brig. Gen. Arthur F. "Chip" Diehl III, who was born at MacDill and served in various capacities on the base, recently outlined the plan at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce's monthly membership luncheon.
"Encroachment will kill a base in a minute," Diehl told audience members May 5, referring to surrounding development.
Diehl offered several suggestions to help MacDill survive a pending base realignment process, as it did in the 1990s. He recommends forming a new committee in the next couple years and using the website to promote the base's heritage and capabilities by getting 75,000 people to tell their MacDill stories.
"What you as a community need to do is rally around MacDill, and its readiness, its capacity and the capability of the base to do any mission the country asks of it," Diehl said.
In addition to the dozens of tenants who call MacDill headquarters, such as U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, the base is home to the 6th Air Mobility Wing and the 927th Air Refueling Wing, with about 4,500 combined personnel.
"The idea is to be able to not only communicate what MacDill is doing but to support the installation … and support the men and women who serve our country," Schueler said.
Hillsborough County resident and Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Susie Blocker has been stationed at MacDill since 1994. She is one of the nearly 140,000 defense sector employees Schueler has in mind when he quotes studies that show an economic impact of up to $14 billion that the base projects throughout the Tampa Bay area.
"MacDill has been my best assignment by far," said Blocker, 54, who began her Air Force career in 1979. "Our community is behind our military members from helping our separating/retiring airmen secure civilian employment to sponsoring several enlisted and officer organizations. MacDill has the best programs, whether members are home-stationed or deployed."
Just a few weeks ago, MacDill earned a nod toward an even longer future when U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, announced he had secured $94 million in a bill that would allocate funds to base construction projects.
Contact Eric Vician at [email protected]