UCM opens door of opportunity to Airmen

Spectators, including members of Team Whiteman, attend a University of Central Missouri Jennies' volleyball game Nov. 2 in Warrensburg, Mo. Beginning in the autumn of 2012, UCM’s Command Pass program allowed active duty Service members, Guard, Reservists and their dependents free entry to all UCM's sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Spectators, including members of Team Whiteman, attend a University of Central Missouri Jennies' volleyball game Nov. 2 in Warrensburg, Mo. Beginning in the autumn of 2012, UCM’s Command Pass program allowed active duty Service members, Guard, Reservists and their dependents free entry to all UCM's sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

A member from the University of Central Missouri’s Jennies basketball team grabs a rebound during a game against Evangel University Nov. 12 in Warrensburg, Mo. In an effort to provide a safe and fun community atmosphere, UCM staff members created the Command Pass program, which allows active duty Service members, Guard, Reservists and their dependents free entry to all UCM sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

A member from the University of Central Missouri’s Jennies basketball team grabs a rebound during a game against Evangel University Nov. 12 in Warrensburg, Mo. In an effort to provide a safe and fun community atmosphere, UCM staff members created the Command Pass program, which allows active duty Service members, Guard, Reservists and their dependents free entry to all UCM sporting events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- "If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail." -- Winston Churchill.

Churchill's words were true not only in describing the Allies in World War II, but also the partnership between the armed forces and local communities today. The relationship between Whiteman Air Force Base and the University of Central Missouri is one such partnership.

The university and Whiteman AFB have worked closely in recent months to open up an even more broad array of opportunities for Airmen and their families, both educational and recreational.

This year, for example, UCM established the 'UCM Command Pass' for use at sporting events.

"It's the right thing to do," said Charles Lynn Lowder, UCM director of Military and Veteran Services. "We'd love having Airmen here as much as they'd like to be. The Command Pass helps families kick back and have a good evening out."

Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Command Pass enabled active duty Service members, Guard, Reservists and their dependents to gain free entry to all UCM sporting events. Upon presentation of military ID cards, those eligible are provided free general admission for themselves and immediate family members.

"We want to open the living room and treat Airmen and their dependents as if they're full members of the UCM family," said Dr. Charles Ambrose, UCM president.

Lowder said the idea came from a community tradition that took place in Chicago during the 1960s that gradually disappeared. Now, UCM is striving to bring it back.

"Back in the old days, when I was a young Marine, I would walk around Chicago in the summer. If I wanted to go see a Chicago Cubs game, I'd drive my car, walk in, show my ID card, they'd tell me 'thanks for serving' and show me to the field," Lowder said. "So that was the deal and we thought it would be a great thing to do here at UCM."

Ambrose and the other college staff members agreed and away they went, according to Lowder.

Lowder served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 16 years. Getting married and then being immediately shipped off to combat, leaving his wife behind, Lowder understands the stress deployments can bring to a family.

Being aware of the struggles military members face on and off duty is what keeps UCM staff members like Lowder motivated to help Airmen reach their educational goals and enjoy the central Missouri community in every way possible.

"We're a team," said Lowder. "Wives, husbands and children all serve and all sacrifice. So we're all in the struggle together." By sharing their first-hand experiences, Service members help college students develop as individuals and professionals, said Ambrose.

"Our mission at UCM is not dissimilar from the Air Force mission of education for service," said Ambrose. "The professionalism and dedication Airmen showcase enables them to be excellent role models to students."

The value Airmen add to the UCM campus gives both sides a wider aperture of networks and friendships. In addition, the Command Pass also helps strengthen the partnership between the Air Force and UCM.

"We're so much stronger together than either one of us could represent being separate," Ambrose said. "We're working together on some of the most pressing issues that are challenging college students and especially underage Airmen."

Ambrose says UCM and Whiteman are working together to provide safe communities centered around wellness in an effort to eliminate bad decision-making that puts students and Airmen at risk.

"The fun part is to encourage people to get involved in both institutions in ways that help us create that future," Ambrose said.