Hometown Pride Tour: ENJJPT County Sponsor Program celebrates years of hospitality

Hometown Pride Tour: ENJJPT County Sponsor Program celebrates years of hospitality
(Source: KAUZ)
(Source: KAUZ)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE (KAUZ) - While countries with pilots coming to train or teach at Sheppard Air Force Base have been sponsored since the 1960s, the ENJJPT County Sponsor Program got its start in 1981.

"It's really useful for us to have this support," 2nd Lieutenant Andrea Legovini of the Italian Air Force said.

Noros and DeeAnn Martin have been involved with sponsoring countries for nearly 50 years. They knew welcoming pilots to Texoma was something they wanted to do after returning from Germany where Noros served in the military for two years.

"We wanted to bring some of the things we'd like to have done over there and provide those experiences to the people that were coming overseas to Sheppard Air Force Base," DeeAnn Martin said.

Country sponsors like Noros and DeeAnn help welcome pilots and their families to Wichita Falls. One of those pilots is German Air Force 1st Lieutenant Benjamin Schmidt.

"It's been a very pleasant and easy process. Once we got here we pretty much had everything lined up for us," he said.

This program offers much more than assistance finding homes and schools for these pilots and their families.

"It may be simple things, but just the fact that we feel like part of the family. We know we have some point of reference we can address for any necessity and reason," 2nd Lieutenant Ligovini said.

The falls holds a special part to many of these pilots.

"This is their only experience in the United States and so Wichita Falls as a town is really the ambassador for the entire United States," Instructor for the 80th Flying Training Wing, Trevor Aldridge said.

Memories have been made throughout the years. Including the time Noros and DeeAnn were on a flight to Germany for a reunion with the pilots who had trained in Wichita Falls. Noros asked if anyone in the flight crew had trained at Sheppard Air Force Base.

"The young man in a nice blue uniform tapped Noros on the shoulder and said 'yes, I was taught to water ski at Possum Kingdom Lake at your cabin. I have had brunch in your home. My parents have been entertained in your home and I will be your captain today,'" DeeAnn said.

Whether it's treating them to a Thanksgiving meal or helping them find a home in your neighborhood, sponsors say the real takeaway are the experiences they make together.

"You will make memories that you will never be able to have taken away from you," DeeAnn said.

Samantha Forester, Newschannel 6

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