More than 200 volunteers clean up Craig Field

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 8, 2005

Volunteers began arriving at Craig Field at 8 a.m. with shovels, rakes, weed-eaters, wheel-barrels, paintbrushes and a desire to prove that Selma is the right choice for a pilot training program.

After surveying the broad expanse of Craig Field Industrial Park, where nearly 200 people scattered doing ground and maintenance work Saturday morning, Probate Judge Johnny Jones could barely contain his excitement.

“This is the Selma I know,” he said. “People coming together and getting involved for a cause.”

In what some believed was the largest act of community volunteerism in Dallas County in years, citizens from all walks of life – white and black, rich and poor, young and old – came to Craig Field to get the area ready for Air Force visitors later in the month.

It was also a showing of unity on a grand scale, with nearly everyone representing a church, civic organization, local company, City Hall or the Dallas County Courthouse, according to organizers.

“I was very optimistic that we would have a good community turn-out,” said Kathy Needham, President of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce.

“This has exceeded my expectations. The positive energy has to be absorbed by the Air Force officials when they come to visit.”

The city and county officials spent the morning and afternoon working alongside the volunteers to remove trash and debris, clear overgrown grass and weeds around sidewalks, and place mulch around bushes and flowers.

By lunchtime, everyone was dirty, sweaty and tried, but they all had a feeling of accomplishment.

“They (the Air Force) are going to know how much we want this contract,” said Center of Commerce President Wayne Vardaman.

In October, the Air Force will announce its decision about making the Lockheed Martin In Flight Training (IFT) program at Craig Field a reality.

The IFT project would make Lockheed Martin and Craig Field Airport the single location for all Air Force introductory pilot training. Lockheed is currently in competition with 6-10 other companies for the contract.

If Lockheed Martin wins the contract, it would mean an estimated 333 jobs plus 212 additional jobs during construction.

Warren Wright, manager of Media Relations for Lockheed Martin, said the company should find out on Monday when the Air Force plans to visit Craig Field.

“We will also find out if we have been short-listed, which we fully expect to be,” Wright said. “We are going to make sure the Air Force knows about this (clean-up).”

Wright said the company would soon begin a publicity campaign that includes placing billboards in Selma and near the Randolph Air Force Base in Texas where the deciding committee is located.

“We are going to show the Air Force the support the community has for this project,” Wright said. “A good neighborhood relationship is important to the Air Force.”

The large-scale clean-up effort Saturday, Wright said, is an example of how much the residents of Selma and Dallas County care about their community and their future.