Posted: May 13, 2005 5:22 pm EST

Community looks to military base's future (~17 col. in.)
by Jeff Mullin/Enid (Okla.) News & Eagle
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    By Jeff Mullin
    CNHI News Service

    ENID, Okla. - BRAC Friday didn't turn out to be Black Friday for Enid, when Vance Air Force Base was not part of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's list of recommendations of military bases to be closed.
    "The good news is, the list is out, and not only is it good for Oklahoma, but in particular at Vance Air Force Base, we stay, we stay open, we will pick up - it appears if the BRAC recommendations are followed - 99 new employment positions," said Rep. Frank Lucas, 3rd District Congressional representative. "The community should be extremely proud. This is a clear-cut win for Vance Air Force Base, a clear-cut win for Enid and for north central Oklahoma."
    Under the recommendations Rumsfeld will now forward to the Base Realignment and Closure commission, Vance will pick up at least 93 military positions and six civilian.
    Three missions are moving from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga. Vance, Columbus AFB in Mississippi and Laughlin AFB near Del Rio, Texas, all will pick up elements of the primary phase of fixed wing pilot training, as well as introduction of fighter fundamentals for pilots and weapons systems officers.
    "Our task was this: Stay off the list," said former Enid Mayor Mike Cooper, Vance Development Authority point man for the efforts to save Vance, and chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission. "We are not only not on the list, but we have positioned ourselves very well for growth and expansion at Vance Air Force Base."
    U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said the reason Vance and Oklahoma's other military facilities were spared from the closure list was because of local support.
    "This is the fifth BRAC round and each round we've increased each year," said Inhofe. "It's because, more than anything, of community support. You know what you do in Enid in terms of health care, roads, education and housing. That's a huge factor. That's a major reason."
    Enid Mayor Ernie Currier admitted to a bit of apprehension in the hours leading up to Friday morning's announcement.
    "Last night when I went to bed it was on my mind," said Currier, "because we would wake up and know within a few hours."
    Retired Air Force Gen. J.B. Davis, a member of the 1995 BRAC commission and a consultant hired by the VDA, said his work and that of everyone working to keep Vance open will not stop with the release of the initial BRAC list.
    "This is phase one," said Davis. "We have succeeded in phase one. We ought to be very happy with it. Phase two starts now. Phase two is going to be a little bit easier because there are no pilot training bases on the list. There are no pilot training bases that are going to be reduced."
    In 1995, Vance and the other undergraduate pilot training bases were added to the BRAC list after Reese AFB in Lubbock, Texas, was a part of the initial closure list. All were removed from the final list, except Reese.
    Davis, Cooper and the rest of the team will work, Davis said, to make sure Vance's status does not change in the coming months. The BRAC commission has until Sept. 8 to submit its revised list to President Bush.
    "What we'll be doing over the next two or three months is to make sure there are no 'communists' trying to take something away from us," Davis said jokingly, "and we'll be doing that very well. We'll be in Washington a lot. It's not my favorite city, but it's a good cause."
    The Air Force does not get involved in the BRAC process and thus had no comment, but Currier highlighted the strong relationship between the base and the community.
    "It makes it easy to be friends with the military when you've got folks like we have at Vance Air Force Base," said Currier. "Thank you to team Vance for all they do."

    Jeff Mullin writes for the Enid (Okla.) News & Eagle.

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