July 31, 2012
Washington, D.C. – In case you missed it, be sure to read today’s Mansfield News Journal cover story on President Obama’s latest campaign trip to Ohio tomorrow. Air Force One will land at the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard base on Wednesday morning to try to win Mansfield voters, but his proposed Air National Guard cuts threaten the base’s very existence despite the 179th winning Best Overall Air National Guard unit prize this year.
In the article, Senator Portman criticizes the President’s attempts to do away with the mission, stating, “If President Obama has his way, his Air Force One arrival would be one of the final flights into Mansfield-Lahm Airport. Despite numerous reports highlighting the value of the 179th, and the critical capability they and their C-27J aircraft provide to our deployed soldiers, President Obama wants to do away with the mission for the 800 Guardsmen at the base. Time and again, these Ohioans have answered the call to serve. They must be pretty frustrated to see the president drop into town, ignore their award-winning work, and fail to give them a straight answer about his plans to end their important mission.”
Article included below. Actual article can be found here.
Air Force One to land at threatened Mansfield base
Mansfield News Journal
By Lou Whitmire
July 31, 2012
MANSFIELD -- The 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard base where Air Force One will land Wednesday morning remains threatened by President Barack Obama's proposed cuts to the military budget.
The C27-Js will be positioned at the base so Obama sees them when Air Force One taxis in, Col. Michael Howard, 179th Airlift Wing vice commander, said Monday.
''It's critically important to us. We're still very optimistic about keeping the C27-Js," Howard said. ''We couldn't do anything without the community support. We're in a waiting game. But we're very optimistic."
Legislators including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was frank when asked about Obama and the Air National Guard base on the city's northside.
"If President Obama has his way, his Air Force One arrival would be one of the final flights into Mansfield-Lahm Airport. Despite numerous reports highlighting the value of the 179th, and the critical capability they and their C-27J aircraft provide to our deployed soldiers, President Obama wants to do away with the mission for the 800 Guardsmen at the base. Time and again, these Ohioans have answered the call to serve. They must be pretty frustrated to see the president drop into town, ignore their award-winning work, and fail to give them a straight answer about his plans to end their important mission," Portman said Monday.
In recent months, the community rallied to help save the base and its aircraft, sending more than 20,000 "Write to Congress" emails to Ohio senators and congressman in a matter of weeks.
Local officials said the aggressive involvement by the Mansfield-area community put a temporary hold on what surely would have resulted in the closing of the 179th Airlift Wing and the loss of more than 800 local jobs, at least 350 of them full-time positions.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a bill in May blocking cuts at Air National Guard bases. The Senate's plan would ensure the C-27J aircraft at Mansfield, along with the KC-135 at Rickenbacker's 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus and the C-130H planes at the Youngstown-Warren Air Reserve Station, are spared from cuts for at least a year.
Earlier this month, Col. Gary McCue, commander of the 179th Airlift Wing, said its members are honored to be the recipient of such strong local support. ''It has been a dramatic groundswell and we are grateful," McCue said.
"The 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard completed a nine-month deployment, providing direct support to the U.S. Army. The unit was attached to an Army Aviation Brigade, flying resupply missions for forward deployed troops. Also, the 179th had Army National Guard aircrews flying with our aircrew, on Air National Guard aircraft. This operation is the first of its kind on a permanent basis, and has paved the way for the future of truly joint interaction between Army and Air aviation. The deployed squadron amassed an impressive 3,200 sorties, moving 1,400 tons of cargo, 25,000 passengers, and performing 71 airdrops," he said.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, said he too hopes the president takes note.
"When the president travels to Mansfield on Wednesday, I hope he will get a better sense of just how vital the C-27J program is to the Air National Guard Base at Mansfield and the economy of north central Ohio," Brown said
Richland County Commissioner Ed Olson said Congress needs to look at defense programs that are cost effective.
''The C27-J is far more cost effective to operate than the old C-130s and it can fly missions into remote areas where the C-130 cannot operate," Olson said.
''Congress needs to adopt a budget to avoid the sequestration of funds that will take effect in January and the budget needs to adopt measures that are cost effective but do not diminish the national defense," he said.
Olson said he retired in 1992 after 28 years of military service, including serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
''The issue is not how much money you are spending on defense, it is are you spending money in areas that increase your readiness to defend the country. That's the key issue with the C27-J. You cut that program because of sequestration, you're not saving money," Olson said.
Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker said he hopes the president realizes the importance of the C27-Js and the base to the Mansfield community.
''With budget cuts as they are and the proposed cuts from the Air Force to reduce the C27-Js, hopefully he will deem it very important for this community since he felt it was important to come here for the votes. Hopefully he will take that under consideration when the recommendation is made," Theaker said.
In May, the 179th announced it has earned three major honors for unit excellence.
"These are very prestigious awards in the Air National Guard community, and to receive even one is quite an accomplishment," McCue said in May.
Perhaps the most prestigious is the National Guard Association of the United States Distinguished Flying Unit Spaatz Award. This commendation is named for World War I ace and first Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl A. "Tooey" Spaatz. It goes each year to the overall outstanding flying unit in the Air National Guard. Selection is based on combat readiness, flying safety, aircraft readiness, combat skill proficiency, deployments, unit manning, skill qualifications, retention and drill attendance.
Another honor was the National Guard Bureau Curtis N. "Rusty" Metcalf Award. It recognizes the airlift or air refueling unit with the highest standards of mission accomplishment. To be considered, units are evaluated in the areas of exercises and deployments, human resources, accident rate history, accident prevention and significant accomplishments.
The Maj. Gen. John J. Pesch Flight Safety Award is presented annually to two flying units that have demonstrated the highest standards of flight safety in the Air National Guard.
"Despite the turbulence of ongoing budget and mission decisions, the 179th continues to focus on the job at hand -- providing world-class service to our communities, state and nation," McCue said. "I am very proud to be a part of this organization, and I'd like to thank all the members of the 179th/200th (Red Horse Squadron) for their incredible efforts."None of this would be possible without the steadfast support of our families and communities."