Adventurer bags AMC civic leader duties in Europe

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"Darling daughter, opportunities flit in front of your eyes very quickly; don't be timid about it."

This was the advice Ellie Buford's father gave her many years ago that up to this day, she still lives by. She has followed this guidance through all her life's adventures. To say that her life is a whirlwind adventure is a matter-of-fact statement.

Singing opera, climbing Mounts Kilimanjaro and Kenya as well as some of the tallest mountains in Tibet and India, working as campaign manager for several Massachusetts House and Senate members, and helping to save the Massachusetts river system are just a few items on her long list of accomplishments.

Though the Schenectady, N.Y., native now lives in Cimpello, Italy, she still finds adventure or adventure still finds her. Ms. Buford's most recent exploit includes working as the only civic leader in Europe to Air Mobility Command commander, Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr.

"I can't believe what I've gotten myself into," said Ms. Buford. "However, I like to move the mountains. I like to make a difference. I like to make it happen and watch it in front of my eyes."

The AMC Civic Leader Conference Program is a major command-level program whose participants are respected community leaders selected from AMC base communities and at large from around the United States as well as other countries. The Air Mobility Command has various small units in Europe, including the 724th Air Mobility Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

The program provides an opportunity for civic leaders to develop a rapport with the AMC commander, provide trusted advice and counsel and work toward increasing understanding and cooperation between the civilian community and the Air Force.

"I'd like to take (military people and family members)'s blinders off," Ms. Ellie said. "Enjoy every minute that you are here. You have a lot to offer. We are ambassadors. There's so much history here; take it all in. You are living history."

Choosing civic leader participants is a selective process. Candidates must be of outstanding character and integrity, have an interest in military matters, be a leader in local or regional affairs, and be in a position to provide individual perspectives to senior AMC and Air Force leaders on Air Force initiatives, issues and other matters of interest.

In addition, civic leader participants should be in a position to disseminate information about AMC and the Air Force to a broad cross section of the public and to other prominent citizens in his or her area.

"Ms. Buford was selected personally by the AMC commander during a visit to the 724th AMS," said Mark Voorhis, AMC Public Affairs chief of civic outreach. "Ms. Buford's participation is unique in that she has a very strong relationship with the base and the local community and is able to inform and educate those she comes in contact with about AMC's global mission."

Before her selection as a civic leader participant, Ms. Ellie built a strong tie within the 724th AMS; so strong is the rapport that she became known as "Granny" to the 724th AMS family. She was introduced to the squadron in 2005 because of her friendship with former honorary squadron commander Esperia Cossettini. Ms. Ellie would always accompany Ms. Cossettini during squadron functions.

"She participates in everything that we have -- picnics, commander's calls; she's a real mother to the squadron," said Lt. Col. Scott Belanger, 724th AMS commander. "She helps our new Airmen get settled. Over the past five or six years, she has built this reputation of helping us because every time we have visitors, whether from our wing or AMC, they would always meet Ms. Ellie."

Ms. Ellie would also bring the squadron on hikes in the mountains, visit battlefields, and explain a lot of historical context of the area.

"For a long time, she has done a lot of good work for Airmen here," Colonel Belanger said. "She is one of those people in the community who is advocating for us, taking care of us and giving sage advice. Her level of energy is phenomenal, and she vectors all that energy for the good of Airmen here."

What's next for Ms. Ellie's adventure?

"Big trouble," Ms. Ellie said. "I'm always up to something."