Leader Blues

Saturday, September 16, 2006

TOP STORY>>Planes, airmen head for base

IN SHORT: Nearly $50 million in new construction is planned to accommodate the arrival of seven more planes and 314 more personnel.

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base will be receiving seven additional aircraft and 314 personnel as a result of base realignment and closure (BRAC), a fraction of initial estimates of 66 new planes and 3,900 personnel, but still impressive when compared with other bases that are closing or are losing personnel and equipment.

Nine construction projects are planned over the next three years to accommodate the changes at the base.

This fall, the 463rd Airlift Group will become an operational combat wing under the Air Mobility Command (AMC), so there will be three wings on base, including the 314th Airlift Wing for training and the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing for training and supporting state missions.

With seven additional aircraft coming from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., the base will increase the number of AMC aircraft to 52 C-130 cargo aircraft and four flying squadrons and de-crease Air Education and Training Command (AETC) aircraft to 24 with two flying squadrons.

AMC personnel will increase by 1,346 and AETC will lose 1,032, a net increase of 314 airmen for the base reflecting the base’s growing combat roll.

“Little Rock Air Force Base is a vital component to our state and national security and I am always proud to fight for improvements in its capabilities and quality of life. The BRAC process was no different,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
“I believe the positive results are a true testament to the dedication and skill of the individuals at the base and to the community,” Pryor told The Leader.

Any gain at LRAFB means a loss for another base somewhere in the country. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) lobbied hard last year to keep C-130s at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base citing Arkansas’ tornado season as a major threat to C-130s as-signed to LRAFB.

Cong. Vic Snyder (D-Ark) and Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim traveled to San Antonio last year to tout LRAFB’s advantages to the BRAC commission.

“Little Rock Air Force Base’s growth through the BRAC process is a very good thing both for the base and for central Arkansas,” Snyder said.

“These new aircraft and personnel will strengthen an already exceptional military facility. Other benefits of the realignment process may be several new construction projects and potentially, new infrastructure in addition to military construction that would come through other channels. I will continueto watch this closely as the BRAC implementation progresses,” Snyder told The Leader.

Among the military construction projects are a $3.7 million squadron operations facility, a $2.4 million hangar and a $1.8 million wing headquarters facility scheduled for construction in 2007.

An engine testing facility and several add-ons to existing buildings are planned for 2008 and a $7.3 million parking area for C-130s.

Members of Air Force headquarters, AMC and AETC are at the base planning for the changes to come by identifying key people, organizations and any potential problems.

“We’re here to make sure we’re on track to carry out BRAC actions within the appropriate timeline,” said Capt. Bill Cone, AMC deputy BRAC team chief.

Areas being looked at by the team include simulators, life support, squadron and maintenance operations, logistics, civil engineering, ccommunications and environmental to name a few.

“My staff is here to ensure we facilitate and provide details. The most important thing is for Little Rock to be successful in the long run,” he added.

The team needs to look very closely at AFSO21 (Air Force Smart Operations 21) to ensure we’re not duplicating anything,” said Brig. Gen. Kip Self, 314th Airlift Wing commander.

“We need to ensure we take care of our people, continue to train airmen and deploy combat-ready war fighters to battle, while most efficiently using our resources and taxpayers’ dollars,” Self said.

Capt. David Faggard of the 314th Strategic Information Flight contributed to this story.