Aurora Chamber honors Buckley team members at annual banquet

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AURORA | Each year, Buckley Air Force Base pumps more than $1 billion into Aurora’s economy, making it one of the biggest economic engines in the city and a vital segment of the city’s business scene.

Last week, the Aurora Chamber returned the favor, recognizing 11 soldiers, airmen and marines for their military work and their contributions to the community.

The annual Aurora Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces recognition Luncheon, which is in its 37th year, is a chance for the Chamber and the city’s business community to honor the military personnel who do so much for the community, Aurora Chamber President Kevin Hougen said.

“Our military men and women are second to none,” Hougen said. “We are very appreciative of your commitment as you continue to uphold the great traditions of our free nation.”

The event last week at the Renaissance Hotel Denver Stapleton featured keynote speaker Craig McKinley, President of the Air Force Association.

A former four-star general in the Air Force, he told the crowd of active duty and reserves that all branches of the military are facing a tough future in light of recent spending cuts in Washington, D.C.

The military is in a difficult spot that hasn’t been seen since the 1930s: Military spending is slowing, while threats to national security are growing, McKinley said.

“These issues may create a hollowing of the force,” he said.

To tackle those economic issues, the military needs to revamp the way it invests, and it needs to close some pricey military bases that are no longer worth their price tags, he said.

If the military doesn’t address its financial difficulties, McKinley said the armed forces will be faced with a similar situation to the one it faced in the 1970s and 1980s: a hollow military that doesn’t have the professional advancement opportunities needed to keep its best and brightest.

“What we lost the most were great people, people who wanted to serve and do great things but didn’t see an opportunity to continue to serve,” he said.

Last week’s award winners

include:

Air Force Active Duty Tech. Sgt. Ranier Raqueno of the Space Operations Wing

Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Murjani Law of the Air Reserve Personnel Center

Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Shawn Thomason of the 140th Maintenance Squadron pf the Colorado Air National Guard

Army Active Duty Sgt. Jordan Nwajei of the 743rd Military Intelligence Battalion/Air Reserve Personnel Center.

Army Reserve Spec. Douglas Schmidt

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Hans Blenkers

Navy Active Duty Petty Officer Josue Orantes

Navy Reserve Petty Officer Theresa Able

Marine Corps. Active Duty Sgt. Renata Rock of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion

Marine Corps. Reserve Sgt. Keshia Solano

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Jackson of the Coast Guard’s Cryptologic Unit Colorado