Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

TOP STORY >> Air base role moves toward combat duty

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Air Mobility Command to return to Little Rock Air Force Base within the next 18 months, general tells community council.

Little Rock Air Force Base will have a more active role in the global war on terrorism over the next 18 months, said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, during Tuesday’s Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council luncheon.

Self told council members that by December 2007, the Air Force will shift 55 to 60 of the C-130 cargo aircraft at the base — or about two-thirds of the planes there — from Air Education Training Command to Air Mobility Command for strategic airlift of units, equipment and high-priority supplies.

AETC will continue to provide C-130 training at LRAFB with 25 to 30 C-130 cargo aircraft. The third component of the base, the 189th Air National Guard, will have 10 C-130 cargo planes.

“The necessity of the war-fighting machine continues, and the need for C-130s in the area of responsibility in the global war on terrorism is critical, and Little Rock Air Force Base is the key to that success,” Self said.

The change comes as part of the base realignment and closure decision of 2005 to close 22 major installations and realign 33 others to save about $15 billion over the next 20 years.

LRAFB had expected as many as 50 to 60 additional C-130s and nearly 4,000 new personnel, but that number fell sharply to six new C-130s and about 600 personnel by the end of the BRAC process.

Self told the group because of growing security concerns, base officials are re-evaluating 700 distinguished visitor passes in circulation.

“Yesterday, there were three unidentified packages that came into our mailroom labeled to President Bush and his wife, Vice President Cheney and his wife, and President Gore,” Self said.

“There was a false-positive test for an explosive compound on one of those packages. I’m sharing that with you because we are a military installation and I have to protect the people on this base,” Self said.

In other business, the LRAFB Community Council voted to donate $10,000 per year over the next three years to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History for additional display cases. The 14,500 square-foot museum at 100 Veterans Circle is on the site of the entrance to the Jacksonville Ordnance Plant from 1941 to 1945.

The keynote speaker for the council was Tony Woodell of Heifer Project International, a Little Rock-based effort to end world hunger by providing 37 kinds of livestock to needy people in more than 40 countries.

The organization was founded in 1944 by Dan West, who believed in giving people “not a cup but a cow” to help end hunger.