The next generation of the world’s top fighter pilots trains right here in the Valley of the Sun. In fact, the Luke Air Force Base, located in Maricopa County, is the largest F-16 and F-35 fighter training base in the world.
To help support these high-performing individuals, Fighter Country Partnership provides programs and services to enhance the quality of life for these service men and women inside the fence of the base.
“Our mission is to deliver services that are geared toward morale and well-being, tradition and culture, and mission sustainability,” Executive Director & President of Fighter Country Partnership Ron Sites said. “On average there are about 200-250 airmen from Luke deployed at any given time and most of them are somewhere in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, or Jordan.”
These include support systems for military members and their spouses and children as well. One such example is that FCP provides financial and health expos to help them.
With the support of Fiesta Bowl Charities over the last five-plus years, FCP’s role at the Luke Air Force Base has evolved into building new renovations on the base.
“As we’ve continued to grow in donor support, we’ve increased our scope of work to now renovating facilities on the installation. That’s where the Fiesta Bowl has come in and really made a difference for us,” Sites said. “There’s nobody in the country doing what we’re doing, and at the capacity we’re doing it.”
Fiesta Bowl Charities has assisted with renovating the Luke Air Force Base’s fire station and child development center kitchen.
“The Fiesta Bowl is not just putting their pom poms up in the air saying ‘Hey we love the military!’ They’re actually providing resources and being an active part of the programs and resources that support the military members,” Sites said.
The month of May is Military Appreciation Month, but the collaboration between the FCP and the Fiesta Bowl has always been year-round.
“One of my favorite programs is ‘Operation Santa.’ Every year around the holidays we take 25 kids with deployed parents from the Luke Air Force Base. We’ve partnered with the Fiesta Bowl, USAA and Dick’s Sporting Goods to provide a $300 shopping spree for each child,” Sites said.
‘Operation Santa’ is one of the many ways the Fiesta Bowl and the FCP’s relationship has grown, in addition to the Fiesta Bowl Parade and tickets to the game.
“The Fiesta Bowl is the host, and they welcome everybody. They get the kids excited,” Sites said. “A USAA volunteer walks around with the kids so can they help out with the budget. USAA is good at financial planning and education so it’s a perfect fit for how the Fiesta Bowl collaborates with its partners for a purposeful program.”
For more than a decade, FCP has been an annual participant in the Fiesta Bowl Parade.
“It’s a great opportunity to utilize the Parade as way to show the community that Luke Air Force Base is here,” Sites said. “During that time, the Fiesta Bowl has always been awesome in offering tickets to our military members for their bowl games.”
Together, the Fighter Country Partnership and the Fiesta Bowl will continue to collaborate to accomplish the FCP’s mission of enhancing the lives of the brave men and women serving the country from the Luke Air Force Base.
“It’s our humbling privilege to do what we get to do every day of the year,” Sites said. “We are spoiled with the responsibility of taking care of these military members and their families inside the fence.”