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Fort Walton Beach business community bids farewell to Eglin commander, celebrating two years of strengthened ties

Local leaders and business representatives gathered Wednesday afternoon to honor Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, the outgoing commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, marking a new […]

Local leaders and business representatives gathered Wednesday afternoon to honor Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, the outgoing commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, marking a new chapter in military-community relations for the area.

Local leaders and business representatives gathered Wednesday afternoon to honor Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, the outgoing commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, marking a new chapter in military-community relations for the area.

  • The Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted the event. 

Chamber CEO Ted Corcoran noted this was a first in his two-decade tenure. “In the twenty years that I have been here at this Chamber of Commerce, this is the first time ever that we’ve invited a departing general from Eglin to come and join our community specifically,” Corcoran said.

The gathering included representatives from local government, education, and business sectors. It highlighted the significant strides made in base-community relations under Geraghty’s leadership since he assumed command in 2022.

  • Corcoran recalled the initial breakfast meeting when Geraghty first arrived. “We determined as a community that we wanted to welcome him and show him that the elected officials, the school district, and the business community are in full support of our military,” he said.
Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty with Maureen Bierman, Step One Automotive Group

One of the key achievements during Geraghty’s tenure was progress on the “Orphan Land” concept, which aims to make some base property available for community use. This initiative, long hoped for by local leaders, gained traction under Geraghty’s command.

Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder praised Geraghty’s openness to community needs. “Your leadership has made us better,” Ponder said. “You’ve come in one way, and you go out and you leave us in a better place.” 

Eglin Federal Credit Union CEO Jerry Williams and Neke Stubblefield honoring Gen. Geraghty

Jerry Williams, CEO of Eglin Federal Credit Union, spoke about the longstanding relationship between the base and the community. “Eglin Federal Credit Union was born on Eglin in 1954,” Williams said. He shared personal memories of growing up in the area and enjoying the Eglin range for various activities.

FWB Mayor Dick Rynearson present Gen. Geraghty with a key to the city

Fort Walton Beach Mayor Dick Rynearson commended Geraghty for strengthening communication between the base and the city. “This last two years under your leadership, it’s been absolutely rock solid,” Rynearson said. “I love the way you keep our community informed, whether it’s night flying, whether it’s something the EOD is going to do, whatever it is, you let the community know, and my community really, really appreciates that.”

  • The mayor presented Geraghty with a key to the city, symbolizing the strong bond forged during his tenure.

John Spolski, Assistant Superintendent of Okaloosa County School District, expressed gratitude for Geraghty’s support of military families and their educational needs. “The Okaloosa County School District profoundly values the partnership and your leadership of what you’ve accomplished,” Spolski said. He noted Geraghty’s presence at various school events and his creative leadership in addressing issues like land acquisitions for new school facilities.

Bruce Marshall, a former Eglin commander and now a life director of the Chamber, emphasized the importance of maintaining strong base-community relations.

Bruce Marshall, a former Eglin commander and now a life director of the Chamber, emphasized the importance of maintaining strong base-community relations. 

  • “We would love to see that relationship continue on the level that you’ve provided,” Marshall said, addressing Geraghty. “It’s really important, I think, for the community to feel part of the base because the base has a lot of the territory that all of us live in, no matter how you look at it.”

Geraghty expressed his gratitude to the community. He reflected on his initial impressions of the community’s warmth and engagement, recalling the welcoming breakfast when he first arrived. 

  • “I could tell that this community was something special,” Geraghty said. He noted the contrast between the supportive environment in Fort Walton Beach and the challenges faced by military installations in other parts of the country.

“When I go to Air Force Material Command type gatherings, where people from all over the U.S. are gathering, command teams from different bases, let’s just say not every base has this kind of military-friendly community,” Geraghty explained. “A lot of them are dealing with real challenges in their community. It is just such a blessing to live among a community like this.”

The 96th Test Wing will hold a change of command ceremony on July 3 at 9:06 a.m., with Col. Mark Massaro assuming command from Geraghty. Prior to the ceremony, Massaro will be promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Massaro, a graduate from Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 165 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, brings extensive experience to his new role.

  • Geraghty is set to take on a new position at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. He will serve as the Director of the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and the Director of International Affairs for Air Force Materiel Command.

As the business community bid farewell to Geraghty, there was optimism about the future. Many expressed hope that the strong ties forged during Geraghty’s tenure would continue under the new command, ensuring ongoing collaboration between Eglin Air Force Base and the Fort Walton Beach community.

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Community Comments

“That was a good story it brought back a lot of good memories. I lived there about 35 years ago met some good people ate a lot of good food...”
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“Please open our bridge under neath the Destin bridge please we grew up here only for the locals this is crazy honestly the locals really have Nowhere they can go...”
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“We must do whatever it takes to remove the current sheriff. He is a failed leader, no doubt about it nothing but an excuse maker, totally incompetent in over his...”
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“...and food for enjoyment! Big smile.”
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“can okaloosa county residents can get a year pass for henderson beach park?”
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“Congratulations on giving back to your community. This is an awesome need when young people are returning to school. Blessings over blessings to you this upcoming season.”
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“Why don’t you move to Europe. It seems everything is so great in Europe? This is the USA, STOP TRYING TO PEDAL YOUR SOCIALIST Liberal VALUES ON OTHERS. I lived...”
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“Welcome back Brig. Gen. Massaro.”
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