JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska- The 2014-2016 JBER Honorary Commanders Program officially started with an induction ceremony here, July 25. The purpose of the Honorary Commanders Program is to increase public awareness and understanding of missions, policies, programs and the people of JBER.

The program brings together community leaders of Anchorage, Eagle River and Matanuska-Susitna who have close ties to the community and are aware of its concerns and partner them with a military officer who has command of a unit on JBER.

"We believe you will enjoy this experience and gain a better understanding of the U.S. Military, our mission, and the men and woman who keep Alaska and this country safe," said Lt. Gen. Russell J. Handy, the Alaska Command and Eleventh Air Force commander, to the audience. "I look forward to getting to know you all, and welcome again to our Arctic Warrior family."

Newly inducted honorary commander Andrew Halcro, the president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, said the opportunity will help the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce continue their relationship with the military and better understand the inner workings of the military and how it operates day by day.

"In my last 16 months as President of the Chamber, we have had such a tight relationship with the military," said Halcro. "It's this tight knit bond that we want to foster and grow and getting to know on the ground what happens on a daily basis."

Serving as an honorary commander provides community and business leaders the opportunity to immerse themselves with a specific unit and gain valuable insight about the unique missions and lives of Soldiers and Airmen across JBER.

Those who are privileged to serve as an honorary commander are tasked with certain responsibilities and provided with incredible opportunities.

Honorary commanders are encouraged to:

-Attend, whenever possible, all functions of their assigned military unit.

-Be a pro-active supporter of the military unit for which he/she is the honorary commander, as well as JBER and the military community.

-Interact with unit personnel to learn more about the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and the mission of JBER and its tenant units.

-Be an active ambassador for the community.

-Invite their host unit to join and see activities at their work center.

-Attend tours/events.

Honorary commanders don't solely benefit from this program of information sharing. Commanders, Soldiers and Airmen also gain a better understanding of their community through this partnership.

"I am confident the relationships we build here will open to us a new era defined by trusted partnership and joint stewardship," said Col. Brian Bruckbauer, the commander of JBER and the 673rd Air Base Wing. "The work we do will lead to a better Anchorage and a better Alaska for us all."

The term for an honorary commander is two years and commanders may continue to invite past honorary commanders to unit events; however, every two years, new honorary commanders are appointed.

"I cannot emphasize enough the value of this program to the 13,000 men and women of this installation, as we grow together in mutual appreciation of our beautiful Alaskan home and our mutual interests in driving, improving and protecting this city and this country," said Bruckbauer.