910th Airlift Wing losing flying squadron



Tribune Chronicle

VIENNA — One of the two flying squadrons that are part of the 910th Airlift Wing at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station will be deactivated.

The loss of aircraft from the station in Vienna is causing a rippling effect down to the 773rd Airlift Squadron, which will be eliminated in the near future. Exactly when, though, remains uncertain, an official there said Wednesday afternoon.

“The elimination of the squadron ends up being because they’ve made the determination to reduce aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr., superintendent, 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office. “It basically is a byproduct of the force structure changes.”

The station lost two C-130 Hercules aircraft that were on loan to a base in Little Rock, Ark., where they are now permanently stationed. That reduced the fleet to 10 tactical cargo transport planes in October. Then the number was reduced again, leaving the base with eight planes and one reserve.

At one point, the base had 16 aircraft.

Attached to the aircraft inventory reduction were the positions connected to them about 50 full-time and 150 part-time positions, which will be phased out through September. The number includes at least some of the members in the 773rd squadron.

When cuts were announced in November, local lawmakers vowed to increase efforts for continued investment in the air station in Vienna.

Air Force Reserve Command has directed a 10 percent strength increase — 110 percent to 120 percent — in recruiting and retention, which means “at the end of the day, a lot of these folks may have the opportunity to stay here” in extra slots elsewhere, Barko said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration this week proposed a plan to dramatically overhaul the nations military, including cuts in benefit packages, longstanding weapons programs and military bases. It is too early to know if the proposal would further reduce the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

According to information published by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber last year, the Youngstown Air Reserve Station contributed an estimated $123 million into the local economy in 2012. How any cuts at the base will financially affect the community at large is undetermined.

The primary mission of the 773rd is airlifts and airdrops. Its mission will be covered by the 757th Airlift Squadron, which includes the only full-time, fixed-wing aerial spray mission in the U.S. Department of Defense.

“We basically have about 1,600 folks here assigned overall and at the end of the day, every single one of those folks contribute to the airlift,” Barko said. “That’s what we do.”

The U.S. Department of Defense recently approved the air base to host a show featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds May 17 and 18. About a dozen civilian acts also have been booked.

But without about $200,000 in private funding, the show can’t go on. Some suggested that a showing of community support is important to how the Department of Defense views the base.

Representatives of the air base and the Youngstown Air Reserve Base Community Council said they are trying to raise the money from community partners to host what will be one of just 16 approved shows in the world this year.

Request for comment from representatives of the Base Community Council regarding the loss of the flying squadron, as well as how any difficulty raising funds could reflect on community support for the base in the eyes of the Department of Defense were denied.