March Air Reserve Base may find it has a somewhat stronger voice now that a local businessman has been named to an Air Force citizen liaison group.
Jamil Dada is the first Inland Empire resident to serve on the 14-member Air Mobility Command Civic Leader Program. He’s hoping to help steer more resources to March.
“It provides a little extra access and a face-to-face with Gen. (Carlton) Everhart,” Dada said, referring to the commander of Air Mobility Command. “I’ve been invited to be on a conference call with Gen. Everhart, and he’s going to discuss in particular the KC-46. So that’s access.”
The KC-46 is the next generation of refueling tanker and is just beginning to roll off the assembly line. March has been in line to receive an allotment of the planes but has not yet gotten the nod. The planes would replace the base’s aging fleet of 14 KC-135 tankers. One of March’s primary missions is refueling.
The civic leader program was started in 2008 to allow greater access to top military brass and to help disseminate information at the community level.
Dada was nominated for the program by Brig. Gen. Russell Muncy, commander of March and Maj. Gen. John Flournoy, the previous 4th Air Force commander. Dada is the only member of the group representing the Air Force Reserve and said he was surprised to hear from Muncy in February that he’d been nominated.
“I didn’t have a clue,” Dada said.
Air Force officials announced the program members Monday. The group will meet with Everhart once every six months for three years. They will tour military facilities and will be expected to return to their communities and share what they’ve learned, either through opinion pieces in local news publications or community forums.
As the only Air Force Reserve representative, Dada said he is hoping to give that part of the Air Force a greater voice, rather than being the odd man out. He has been lobbying lawmakers for years, locally and in Washington, promoting the March base.
“I’ve been doing this advocacy stuff in Washington for 15 years,” he said. “Clearly the reserves have already shown they can do almost the same amount of effort and impact for a lot less money. I think as we go forward, (military officials and lawmakers are) going to be looking for more Reserve impact. My hope also is to get March a higher profile.”
Dada is vice president of investments for Provident Bank and serves as the board chairman of the March Field Air Museum. He sits on or has been part of the board of numerous community organizations, including serving as chairman of the March Joint Powers Authority's Redevelopment Oversight Committee.
One of the top things on his list is helping to secure funding for improvements at March.
“March has a big ramp and could take more missions and that could reduce the (Reserve’s) overall cost,” he said. “But one of the reasons we didn't get the KC-46 in the first round is they told us a big part of the ramp is not strong enough. The plane is too heavy. We need funding to strengthen the ramp.”
With President Donald Trump’s plans to increase military spending by as much as $54 billion,” he said, “We think we have an opportunity to tap some of that extra money.”
As an immigrant from Pakistan, Dada said his inclusion in the program sends a message.
“It shows you how amazing this country is,” he said, “and that we value everybody equally in this country.”