Posted: May 13, 2005 5:50 pm EST

BRAC spares 910th: west PA and east OH to see gain (~22 col. in.)
by Michael Roknick, Sharon (Pa.) Herald
    Additional Information: WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA, EASTERN OHIO
    910th is spared on “BRAC" Friday
    Air base to see small net gain of workers

    By Michael Roknick
    CNHI News Service

    YOUNGSTOWN, Pa. - Friday the 13th proved to be a lucky day for the 910th Airlift Wing.
    A Pentagon panel recommended the base remain open.
    Even better, the Youngstown Air Reserve Station could see a slight increase of eight jobs if the advice is accepted.
    Word spread like wildfire on which military bases were spared and
    which were scheduled for closing on the day that became known
    as BRAC Friday, named for the Base Realignment and Closure
    Commission. The government committee now will review the
    advice of the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Donald H.
    Rumsfeld.
    As U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan led a contingent of local leaders to an
    outdoor news conference in downtown Youngstown Friday
    morning, their broad smiles telegraphed that the 910th wasn’t on
    the dreaded closure list.
    Just 30 minutes before the news
    conference, the 17th District Democrat from Niles was sent an
    e-mail from the Pentagon to announce which bases would close.
    “Ladies and gentlemen of the Mahoning Valley, we did it — we’re
    not on the list," Ryan said. “It’s a great victory."
    He complimented area leaders for banding together to keep the
    base intact. They formed a nonprofit group, Save Our Airbase
    Reservists, which mounted a marketing and lobbying campaign to
    save the base.
    “I’m the proudest man in the world right now representing this
    community," Ryan said.
    Employing 2,400 reservists, civilians and contractors, the air base has 120 Mercer County residents on the payroll, not including another 122 part-time Marine and Navy reservists. With 12 Lockheed C-130H2 Hercules transport and cargo aircraft assigned to the 910th, the unit is capable of operating in peacetime or wartime conditions.
    Also in attendance was Michael Gjede, the former commander of
    the 910th who retired last year. A SOAR backer who appeared on
    TV commercials supporting the base, Gjede said he was thrilled.
    “If we’ve accomplished nothing else, the base and the community
    have come together,’’ Gjede said.
    While avoiding the list was seen as pivotal for the base’s survival, it’s not out of the woods. In the last round of base closings in 1995, the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station was on the initial closure list. But after a fierce lobbying campaign, Pittsburgh officials convinced BRAC that the Pentagon’s data was flawed and the commission decided to review all C-130 bases, including the 910th in Vienna.
    Once again the Pittsburgh base made the latest list, and SOAR
    will remain in place to ward off any attempts to close the 910th,
    said Reid Dulberger, SOAR’s co-chairman and executive vice
    president of the Youngstown-Warren Chamber of Commerce.
    As part of the Pentagon’s recommendation, eight civilians from the Pittsburgh base’s medical squadron would be transferred to the 910th.
    In addition to Pittsburgh, Gjede noted that other bases on the
    closure list include Mansfield, Ohio; Niagara Falls, N.Y.; and
    Willow Grove, Pa.
    “We’re surrounded by guys who got a closure notice,’’ Gjede said.
    “They’re not going to take that sitting down.’’
    Ryan also indicated that serious fights are bound to break out over keeping bases on the list alive.
    “Some on the list are in powerful congressional districts,’’ he said.
    In four previous rounds of closures, commissions have accepted 85 percent of bases the Pentagon recommended for closure or consolidation.
    Elsewhere, others agreed that with the 910th being recommended for a net gain of workers, the base is dealing from a position of strength.
    “I think our position is pretty strong,’’ said Cloyd E. “Gene’’ Brenneman.
    A former Mercer County commissioner, Brenneman heads SOAR’s Pennsylvania chapter. SOAR members will meet next week to develop strategy on keeping the base intact. One item already being considered is building more housing at the base. A lack of housing was cited in a report commissioned by SOAR as one of the base’s shortfalls.
    Strong selling points used by SOAR were that the 910th has joint use of Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and provides air rescue and fire-fighting resources for the airport, Brenneman said.
    Also, the 910th is the only full-time, fixed-wing aerial spray mission in the Department of Defense.
    “To me, this should have been a very easy decision,’’ said U.S. Rep. Phil English of Erie, R-3rd District. “The local effort really does count for a significant part of this outcome.’’
    At the airbase, Col. Tim Thomson, commander of the 910th, said
    his people were upbeat when they heard the news.
    “I think everyone is just kind of relieved at this point,’’ Thomson said.
    He added he wants his people to begin concentrating on their
    mission.
    “We’ve done what we can — now it’s a political process,’’ he said.

    Michael Roknick writes for the Sharon, Pa., Herald.

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