Keesler pulls out all the stops to impress judges - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Keesler pulls out all the stops to impress judges

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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Keesler Air Force base hopes to win over a panel of judges by surprising them with a Mardi Gras parade where they're the guests of honor. The Biloxi base is one of two finalists in the Commander In Chief Installation Excellence Award. The victor receives $1 million to invest in quality of life improvements. Keesler has a strategy to bring the prize home that includes throwing beads and snacking on king cake.

Keesler Air Force base officials said there's no better symbol of the relationship between the base and the surrounding area than a Mardi Gras parade.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Wright said, "We wanted to start off with a Mardi Gras theme because it's all about community. And for us to think about Team Keesler is not just the Air Force Base but it's in the community in which we live. A place where we like to call home."

After a welcome breakfast of shrimp and grits, judges for the Installation of Excellence Award set off to tour the facilities at Keesler.

"We are down to two finalists as you are well aware. McConnell Air Force Base and Keesler," said Major Gen. Tim Byers, a judge. "You should be very proud of what you've accomplished not just this year but what this installation, what the men and women of the installation and the community have done for many many years since 1941. "

Keesler airmen said this is their time to shine.

Master Sgt. Nicole Dismute said, "This is one of the most exciting times in Keesler's history. I'm very excited for our team. It's been awesome to showcase what exactly we do here and who we are."

Although the winner won't be announced until March, some Keesler airmen are already tossing out ideas of how to spend the $1 million the winning base will receive.

"I would definitely hands down spend it on an indoor running track fit with the best materials," said Sgt. Tawny Cruther. "Soft cushioning so we can run inside when it gets freezing out here."

WLOX's own Doug Walker was a presenter at the breakfast. He talked about how after Hurricane Katrina, although many of their homes had been destroyed the men and women of Keesler were there to help the community.

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