Posted: May 13, 2005 8:59 pm EST

Moody AFB skirts BRAC closure (~23 col. in.)
by Grace Agostin, Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times
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    By Grace Agostin
    CNHI News Service

    VALDOSTA, Ga. - Moody Air Force Base will remain a major military installation for south Georgia and the Department of Defense.
    The base avoided closure Friday when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld released the long-awaited base realignment and closure list.
    Rumsfeld recommended about 180 bases for closure, including 33 major installations. But Moody is slated to gain additional missions, aircraft and personnel. The recommended base closures are expected to save the Department of Defense an estimated $49 billion in a 20-year period.
    "The good news is No. 1 we're not in danger, No. 2 there's a net gain that does impact the economy," said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.
    According to the BRAC report, Moody will receive 48 A-10s and establish an engine maintenance facility for TF-34 engines. This is expected to bring about 1,274 military and 50 civilian jobs to Moody.
    However, Moody will lose the base-level ALQ-184 intermediate maintenance along with the 479th Flying Training Group and 49th Fighter Training Squadron for a loss of 604 military and 145 civilians.
    Moody will end up with a net gain of 575 military jobs, Kingston said.
    "What we've got to do is make sure we're prepared for this," Kingston said.
    Col. Joe Callahan, commander of the 347th Rescue Wing, said he saw the list for the first time at 10 a.m. Friday.
    "The way the process works is they leave the wing commanders out of the loop," Callahan said. "And that's the way it should work. We need to stay focused on the mission."
    Callahan said the realignment report for Moody left him surprised, but added that they are only recommendations at this point.
    "We've only just completed step one of a five-step process," Callahan said. "It's isn't over. The process will continue."
    The Department of Defense's recommendations have been forwarded to the nine-member BRAC commission that will report back to President Bush with its own findings and conclusions after visiting military installations.
    Still, city and county officials said they are pleased with the BRAC report that classified Moody as holding a "high military value."
    "We find that very encouraging," said Mayor John Fretti. "We have taken the offensive approach and offered up Moody for expansion every chance we've had."
    However, Fretti said he was disappointed to see the loss of the 479th Flying Training Group and the 49th Fighter Training Squadron as a result.
    "Our community leaders fought hard to gain missions without losing any," Fretti said. "The men and women that make up the 479th and the 49th have been an integral part of base operations and of our community for a long time, and we will feel the loss."
    Callahan said there will be less flight activity around Moody with the loss of the T-6s and T-38s. According to the report, Moody will lose 46 T-6s and 67 T-38Cs.
    The 48 A-10s to join Moody will be a return for the aircraft model, which is designed for air support of ground forces. The A-10, Callahan said, will provide additional support for Moody's combat search and rescue missions.
    "Overall, the rescue forces will be here after the BRAC changes," Callahan said.
    Chairman Rod Casey, of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners, said Moody's position on the BRAC recommendations are a result of an effort that began years ago.
    "We were very happy about the outcome after all the hard work that has been put in the past 10 years," Casey said.
    After Moody was recommended for closure in 1991, Parker Greene helped form the Moody Support Committee. Greene is the executive director of the committee and through the group's efforts Moody was removed from the list and was later able to receive the Air Force's only rescue wing, the 347th.
    "We started about 10 years ago to get to where we are today," Casey said.
    "This is not something that just happened over night. We started a long time ago to save Moody."
    Tim Carroll, chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, said the efforts, in a way, date back 40 years after the Red Carpet Committee was established to welcome incoming Moody personnel.
    "I think that it's paid off," Carroll said.
    With an expected net gain of about 575 military jobs, local officials will begin efforts to plan for the impact of Moody's growth.
    "There is a lot of work that's already been done," said City Manager Larry Hanson.
    The Water Treatment Plant expansion and transportation improvements are examples of projects that are under way to assist with growth, Hanson said.
    "I also think the housing stock should be able to accommodate this and any additional growth," Hanson said. "We're well prepared to accommodate the growth."
    Local governments previously made arrangements to form a local redevelopment authority and fighter group if Moody was recommended for closure. Because Moody is selected for realignment, Casey said officials will instead focus on handling growth.
    "Local officials and staff refused to believe early on that an installation of excellence such as Moody would be targeted. A large portion of prior planning efforts have been directed toward expansion and growth," Casey said.

    Grace Agostin is staff writer for the Valdosta, Ga., Daily Times.

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