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Jefferson Barracks Family Picnic builds support for Guard mission

Missouri Air National Guardsmen and their Families line up to take advantage of the burgers and hot dogs grilled by the 131st Bomb Wing Chiefs Council during the Annual Jefferson Barracks Family Day event in St. Louis, Missouri on Sept. 6, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf)

Missouri Air National Guardsmen and their Families line up to take advantage of the burgers and hot dogs grilled by the 131st Bomb Wing Chiefs Council during the Annual Jefferson Barracks Family Day event in St. Louis, Missouri on Sept. 6, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf)

An officer with the St. Louis County Police Department shows off a member of its K-9 unit to children of the 157th Air Operations Group during the Family Day picnic at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on Sept. 6, 2014. The St. Louis County Police Department has been a regular partner in the Family Day festivities at Jefferson Barracks. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf)

An officer with the St. Louis County Police Department shows off a member of its K-9 unit to children of the 157th Air Operations Group during the Family Day picnic at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on Sept. 6, 2014. The St. Louis County Police Department has been a regular partner in the Family Day festivities at Jefferson Barracks. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf)

Senior Airman Ben Middleton,157th Air Operations Group, watches his daughter as she participates at the petting zoo organized by Purina Farms during the 2014 Family Picnic at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on Sept. 6, 2014. Purina Farms also presented a dog show for Citizen Airmen and their Families at the event. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf)

Senior Airman Ben Middleton,157th Air Operations Group, watches his daughter as she participates at the petting zoo organized by Purina Farms during the 2014 Family Picnic at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on Sept. 6, 2014. Purina Farms also presented a dog show for Citizen Airmen and their Families at the event. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Nathan Dampf)

JEFFERSON BARRACKS ANGB, Mo -- The kids ran from bounce houses to build bug houses. Their faces were painted as Spiderman or decorated with butterflies. Families could smell the barbecue as soon as they entered the front gates. The cheers from the softball and volleyball fields could be heard halfway across base. But, the camaraderie built during the annual Jefferson Barracks Family Day picnic will stretch back home and on future deployments.

During the Missouri Air National Guard's Jefferson Barracks Family Day picnic, more than 800 Citizen Airmen and their Families from the 157th Air Operations Group, 131st Bomb Wing, 231st Civil Engineering Flight, and 239th Combat Communications Squadron participated during the September unit training assembly here to build morale and esprit de corps.

"Events like this give us an opportunity to thank our Families who support us as we work to accomplish the mission," said Col. Richard Chapman, commander of the 157th Air Operations Group. "They help us do what we do every day, so it is extremely important we thank them."

According to Chapman and event organizers, this year's picnic took nine months to plan. Representatives from across the installation community coordinated the event that also brought in support from the local community.

"There has been so much coordination," said Tech. Sgt. John Johnson, event organizer and net data noncommissioned officer in charge at the 157th AOG. "Things like the weather made it almost intimidating at times, but we were flexible and adapted. It's been a great experience since everybody has helped out."

Johnson recognized members of the unit for singing the national anthem and providing a historical tour of building 1. He also acknowledged the Chiefs' Council and 131st Force Support Squadron for providing barbecue and two roasted hogs at the event.

Col. Michael Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander, travelled from the wing's headquarters at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to recognize event planners and other Jefferson Barracks top performers, by awarding each his commander's coin.

Tech. Sgt. John Johnson, 157th AOG; Tech. Sgt. Danielle Clark, 131st Mission Support Group; Tech. Sgt. Matt Jones, 239CCS; Tech. Sgt. Brian Conrey, 131st Civil Engineering Squadron and Ms. Virginia Todd , 157th AOG; were recognized for extensive planning and support to the Family Day event.

The following individuals were also cited as superior performers for their significant contributions to the Missouri Air National Guard mission through their work at Jefferson Barracks: Master Sgt. Deborah Ray, Staff Sgt. Anthony Klenke, Senior Airman Heather Campbell and Airman 1st Class Alisa Hale, all from the 157th AOG; 1st Lt. Charlie Shortridge, 231st CEF; and Tech. Sgt. Nick Folmer and Staff Sgt. Chris Scott, from the 239th CCS.

In addition to enjoying food, Families had an opportunity to take advantage of several activities provided by community groups throughout the day.

Outside group activities included a Home Depot kid's arts and crafts station, a USO food and beverage truck, Purina Farms dog show and petting zoo and a St. Louis County Police Department K-9 unit. Several other outside vendors provided booths to share information about disaster preparedness, TRICARE benefits, and job searching services, said Johnson.

Senior Airman Ben Middleton, 157th AOG, joked that his Family would take advantage of what his four-year-old daughter wanted to do, which most likely would be the bounce houses and the petting zoo.

"Being here once a month gives us a chance to reconnect with our Families," said Middleton. "It's critical to continue the mission to help Families understand what we do. Days like this are a good time to relax, but we know we have to continue the mission the next day."

Middleton, who also serves as the president of the Jefferson Barracks Junior Enlisted Council, volunteered the services of the council to help with event set-up and take-down. He and Johnson agree that annual Family events like the picnic are beneficial for the group's morale and camaraderie.

"Since units have been transitioning so much lately, it is important to know each other and our Families," said Johnson. "With four units here, it is absolutely vital we all work together. And, especially if deployed, we know we can lean on each other."