Cameron Wiley grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and joined the Air Force 17 years ago. He was stationed in several places throughout his career, including the United Kingdom and Las Vegas. He spent 7 years doing recruiting for the military in the Arlington-area where he met and married his wife. When the opportunity came to move to a new base, Wiley wanted to go to Abilene since it was closer to family. Today he is a master sergeant and B-1 weapons maintenance section chief at Dyess Air Force Base. Shortly after moving to Abilene, he got involved with the Abilene Air show, then the board of the Day Nursery of Abilene. He also volunteers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Cancer Services Network, Abilene Young Professionals, and various volunteer efforts through Beltway Park Church. Most recently, he jumped into public service on the Wylie School Board. He also helps the community in a unique way as the admin of a booming Facebook group called “Support Small Businesses of Abilene.” When he’s not volunteering in the community, he spends time with his daughters, 15 and 7, and his wife.
WHAT MAKES ABILENE UNIQUE?
What I tell the new airmen that come to Dyess is that out of all the places I’ve been, this is the most welcoming community that I’ve been a part of. From a military personnel stand point, you see support everywhere, but it’s kind of a different level here. That’s something I really preach to the new airmen, to really get out and experience all that.
A lot of bases I’ve been to in bigger cities, but even in the smaller communities, they kind of get used to seeing the base and seeing folks in uniform. But here there’s so much support. They act like every day they’re seeing us for the first time. Here you can see that Abilene’s heart is to support us. From big stuff like the World’s Largest BBQ and the Chamber, to going into a mom-and pop restaurant and someone covers our meal.
It’s the togetherness, the warm-heartedness. The more I’ve gotten involved, the more I see how much this community has to offer. It’s benefitted me, it’s benefitted my family and having a chance to be a part of that is an incredible experience.
WHY DID YOU RUN FOR PUBLIC SERVICE ON THE WYLIE SCHOOL BOARD?
I wanted to take that next step in my community and giving back. My wife is a teacher at Wylie, my kids go to Wylie, and we’ve fallen in love with the community. So being able to take that passion and use that to grow it more has been amazing. All the growth in the south of town area, and I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve learned so much. I try to reply to every email I get. Even the mean ones. I would rather hear the issues about the little things because that shows you have a caring parent who wants to be involved and stay in tune with their kids. My biggest thing is getting people to go to the school board meetings to share their voice.
WHAT DOES YOUR DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE IT?
I wake up at 6 or 6:30, make a cup of coffee and go to work from 7 to 3 or 4. I get off and we usually go to board meetings on Mondays or Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, I do youth group. Thursday is the Abilene Citizens Police Academy. Fridays, I’m usually coaching my daughter’s softball team with my wife who is the head coach. Saturdays, I’m usually helping out with a nonprofit event.
The key is time management and an understanding spouse. Sometimes I’ve had to pump the brakes and say “no.” We hate saying no. When you build such an awesome network, it’s hard to say no. But family takes priority and I’ve got a great support system.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND CHANGES YOU WANT TO SEE IN ABILENE?
I love how it’s growing. I built a great network of folks who have poured their heart and soul and investments into this city. Seeing people take chances on our downtown and our city has been amazing. In the little over five years that I’ve been here, the change has been so great. People ask me, “why do you think Abilene is growing so much?” The cool part about it is we’re growing, but still having a small town charm. With the cheese factory coming, Amazon is coming in and doing stuff, from the school district, to Dyess getting a new aircraft – I think that growth is going to continue. I’m hoping Abilene will still maintain that homey, close community feel. And I don’t see that going away. Even throughout all the growth, I don’t ever see that going away. To me, that’s exciting.
HOW ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES OF ABILENE FACEBOOK GROUP?
The last base commander’s wife helped start the Facebook group during COVID just to help businesses out. I reached out to see how I could help, and then they made me an admin. We’ve seen it grow from 600 people to 12,000 people. That’s not really because of me. I police the page and filter it to make it respectful. Really the members have made it their own. It’s awareness, but we’ve done fundraisers and raised over $10,000. It’s turned into a business networking and a consumer “how-to” and “where to go.” We just let it go and let it grow and see what happens.
WHAT’S YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT TO YOUNG DYESS AIRMEN TO GET INVOLVED LOCALLY?
I think there’s some hesitation because at the beginning of your military career, it goes so fast you don’t have time to think about making a place your home. When you get to your first base, homesickness kicks in. For those from bigger cities, it may take a little longer to adapt to a slower-paced town and community.
Once they get comfortable, I encourage them to just get. Go to downtown and try the local businesses and get engulfed in what makes our town our town. The base has started a downtown tour for all new airmen called “Jump Start.” We do them once a month and load them on a bus and take them on a walking tour. There’s so much more to do but just getting them down there and showing them there’s stuff to do that’s not in your room playing Xbox. Go make a home out of your new home.
The views expressed in this article are those of Cameron Wiley and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Air Force, Department of Defense or the US Government.
By Haley Laurence