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Strong support in full force for coast military

It was a shower of warm welcomes and open show of support for the military by a large crowd gathered at the Coast Centurion Annual Meeting recently. The event, hosted each year by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber, gave the public a chance to receive updates and learn more about accomplishments and future goals from local military installations.

On the agenda were commanders from 2nd Air Force, 81st Training Wing, and 403rd Wing at Keesler, and Naval Construction Battalion Center, with the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport.

Some highlights:

Col. Todd Weyerstrass, Vice Commander at 2nd AF, delivered technical training updates, including extending Air Force basic training at Lackland to 8 ½ weeks and incorporating M-4 rifle training early into the curriculum for deployment missions.

Col. Heather Blackwell, Commander, 81st Training Wing, was excited to report the base’s medical center did not make the list for downsizing or cuts announced by the Defense Health Agency, a welcome relief to patients and retirees.  The base is also bringing in food trucks and a farmer’s market in for residents and the workforce.

Commanding officer Capt. William Whitmire, of the NCBC reported that the Seabees would be shifting their deployment cycle to maximize a readiness task force in preparation for hurricane season on the coast.

Lt. Col. Rodney McCraine, 403rd Mission Support Group commander said the Hurricane Hunters flew their Winter Storm of the season Feb. 26. and has been busy throughout the season supporting the West Coast with atmospheric river data collection as well.

Col. Berry McCormick, Commander, CRTC,  said they finally wrapped up this year’s Southern Strike, a large scale joint and international combat exercise that featured close air support, en route casualty care and special operations.  CRTC hosted the event which involved 1,800 Air Force, Army, and Navy reservists from all over the country.

All commanders agreed the coast was one of most military-friendly communities they’ve been to.  “The show of support from outside our gates are phenomenal,” said Colonel Blackwell. “We couldn’t do our mission without them.”   After the meeting guests waited patiently in line to speak personally with each of the commanders.

The Coast Centurions Association was founded by a group of military supporters, led by the late Colonel Henry Boardman, in 1995. It was created to serve as a core group of Mississippi Gulf Coast citizen leaders and military personnel dedicated to the retention of the Coast’s military installations and presence.

The association provides financial support to the ongoing activities such as Salute to the Military and programs of work for the Military Affairs Committees in Gulfport and Biloxi, as well as the Coast Chamber of Commerce.  Members are strong advocates to the men and women of the Armed Forces and their presence across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

For more information on how to become involved with the Coast Centurion Association, contact Katie Weldon at [email protected] or by calling 228-604-0014.


Written by Jerry Taranto

Jerry Taranto is an Air Force veteran, who has served more than 25 years as a public affairs specialist both in uniform and as a government employee.
He has extensive experience in media relations, social media, community/congressional relations, and communication planning.
Jerry, a Biloxi, Miss. native, has a passion for understanding the nuances of local community and governmental relations. He considers himself a ‘savy networker’ and loves to showcase the extraordinary stories of local residents and business members who live and work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
He is a graduate of Leadership Mississippi, Leadership Gulf Coast, and a current executive board member of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce. He holds a B.S. marketing degree from Western Governor’s University, UT.
Jerry considers himself a “forever” student, and is always seeking new adventures, challenges and expanding his social circles to include people from all cultural and business backgrounds. He currently lives in Biloxi and is the proud dad of two Boston Terriers. Reach out to [email protected] to connect!


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