Last week the folks at Peterson Air Force Base started a program that should help bring the business community and the military community closer together.

Brig. Gen. Richard E. Webber deserves a C-130 full of kudos for starting the program, which is designed to increase awareness and understanding of the 21st Space Wing through immersing civic leaders in the group’s missions, people, challenges, triumphs and day-to-day operations. As publisher of the Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group and the Business Journal, the idea more than makes sense to me.

I’ve been teamed with Lt. Col. Bob Orwig, deputy commander of the 21st Space Wing Maintenance Group. I immediately took a liking to my co-commander and to all the people at the base. There was a true “family” atmosphere during the event.

Orwig’s resume is impressive. He has a master’s degree in business management, administration and industrial production from the University of Arkansas. He is responsible for all maintenance support for critical warning and space surveillance units, and for software maintenance of the nation’s critical attack warning and space control systems. He also oversees communications, program management and analysis for 15 weapons systems at 44 units in 26 locations and four countries. If you ask me, he is running a pretty big business.

You can bet you’ll see Bob and me around town together as this program progresses. But I am still curious about one thing: I wonder if they’ll let me push any of those flashing red buttons at our next cocktail reception?

Something missing between airport, downtown

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I got to thinking after the Economic Development Corp’s luncheon last Friday that we have a great airport and a great downtown but not so great overland routes between the two.

Folks arriving in the Springs see a nice airport, then probably should be issued blinders for the drive into the city. I don’t really think that’s an exaggeration.

I could get seven tattoos and pawn my watch half a dozen times driving from the airport to downtown & provided I didn’t get lost along the way. I could also sell my car at any number of used car lots. Maybe it’s time to think about developing a scenic route, or at least a route that offers a better first impression to our guests.

Now since I’ve only been in town about 18 months, I may not be familiar with the best possible route, and if there is one please let me know.

Oh yeah, the trio that spoke at the EDC luncheon, Beth Kozely, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, Mark Earle, aviation director of the airport, and Pam Zallabeck-Shockley, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, should be commended for their leadership. Their organizations have big plans that will truly make a difference in the Springs.

So maybe somebody else should be volunteered to tackle the airport to downtown corridor project. Any takers?

Springs Youth Challenge is a great program

Last Thursday, the Springs Youth Challenge had the “Mayor’s Salute to Leadership” breakfast. You read in this column last year about the organization’s summer program, which still amazes me to think about. For those of you who missed it, I wrote something to the effect that “when I was this age, the last way I would want to spend my summer vacation is talking to a bunch of suits.”

Well, once again, I was very impressed by the teenagers in the program.

At the CSBJ table we had the opportunity to talk with two remarkable young lads. Steven Jaramillo and Derek Brokke embody what I think Springs Youth Challenge is all about. We talked about things such as how they realize that the decisions they make now will have an impact on their futures.

Steven related his feeling of satisfaction from helping to landscape an elderly woman’s home. Derek talked about his parents teaching him to make good decisions and offering him good advice. Now if you talked to me at that age you would have heard something completely different.

I can’t say it enough: If the future is in the hands of kids, at least with the Springs Youth Challenge kids, we’re in good shape.

Steve Schuck, the organization’s founding chairman, had a good vision with this program and Margaret Foster is moving it forward.

Salvation Army event ringing of spy vs. spy

The Salvation Army’s annual gala on April 2 at the Broadmoor Hotel promises to be a great event.

The proceeds will support the New Hope Center. When the Red Cross withdrew, no one wanted to assume the responsibility of running the shelter. The Salvation Army stepped up to the plate.

One of the components of New Hope is the Children’s Discover Center, a 3,000-square-foot area for families to stabilize during the week. The kitchen allows families to prepare and eat lunch together. I know meal time at my house is a special time and I can’t imagine not having it.

Please support the Salvation Army’s New Hope Center program and buy a table or a ticket to the event. Call Rose Mertz for more information at 884-1050.

If you do attend, I’ll introduce you to Lt. Col. Bob Orwig.

Lon Matejczyk is the publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at 634-5905.