Yuma is a town of fervent military supporters, and it’s been that way for a long, long time.

Dating back to 1850 when the Army first established a permanent local presence at Fort Yuma, a heritage that continues at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground today, the military has played a significant role in molding and forming the Yuma community. In today’s economy, the combined over one billion dollars of annual spending by Yuma’s two bases makes the military’s economic impact the second largest component of the Yuma economy, after agriculture. By itself, YPG is the largest single employer of civilians in Yuma County.

Both bases boast positive two-way relations with local elected officials and community leaders. Members of the community banded together in the past whenever necessary to support the local installations, such as during the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process that closed or reduced many installations around the nation during the late 1980’s through the mid-1990’s.

Recently, local leaders decided to formalize the military support process by creating a permanent local organization much like many other communities have formed. The new organization, called the Yuma 50, held a gala kick-off dinner in a hangar at Yuma International Airport in May to get the group off the ground.

“We are a nonprofit organization formed specifically to support military operations in Yuma County,” said Ken Rosevear, chairman of the Yuma 50. “Our purpose is to pursue issues that support our bases and oppose those that are detrimental, whatever they may be.” He describes the group as a community outreach and education organization bringing together a broad group of community and civic leaders, businesses, organizations, military support groups, and private citizens across all political affiliations.

Rosevear says the group hopes to organize 300 to 400 people in the local community and have them ready to respond when an issue comes up deemed negative to either Yuma Proving Ground or Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. These include threats such as proposed budget cuts, sequestration, encroachment issues, and much more. Members will make phone calls, send email messages, write letters, or even visit congressmen to state their opinions and positions.

The new organization has joined forces with the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, which has operated in Tucson and Sierra Vista for several years, to magnify and focus its impact.

“A study was conducted by the alliance a couple years ago that showed strong military support by 83 percent of the citizens of Yuma County,” said Rosevear proudly. “Anybody who lives in Yuma knows this is a military town.”

He strongly believes the work being accomplished at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma deserves protection because of its importance to the national defense. “The mission of the two bases, one for training and the other for testing, is critical to the military,” he said. “This is serious business and we don’t want the mission of either base to be interrupted.”

For further information on the Yuma 50 and to learn how to become a member, visit the organization’s website at: www.Yuma50.org.

Chuck Wullenjohn is the public affairs officer at Yuma Proving Ground. He can be reached at charles.c.wullenjohn.civ@mail.mil.

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