Local support critical to keeping base

The Regional Chamber and all those involved in providing support are taking the right steps in their fight to maintain the vitally important Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

The Regional Chamber last week officially launched the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission and appointed attorney Vito Abruzzino, formerly with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Fort Bragg, N.C., to spearhead it. The move is part of several local steps underway in the fight to maintain the air station in Vienna, home of the 910th Airlift Wing.

The new commission will address the Pentagon’s redeployment decisions and prepare for another federal Base Realignment and Closure Effort, or BRAC, whereby Congress works with the Pentagon to make the U.S. military more efficient. The BRAC commission could reconvene in 2017.

Regional Chamber president and CEO Tom Humphries said this of the effort: “It’s important that we educate the Pentagon and the local community on the vital operations that take place throughout eastern Ohio.”

He is correct, and we hope many others jump on board and to continue this push to save the Vienna facility in anticipation of an approaching round of possible base closures.

The local military installation plays a significant role in our local economy and in national defense.

It’s no secret that the success and prosperity of the local base is critically important to the local economy as well as to national security. The sprawling 321-acre facility abuts the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. It is manned by 1,991 military and civilian employees and contracted workers for an annual payroll of about $54 million.

According to statistics provided by the base, the facility is the fourth-largest employer in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, and pumps approximately $180 million each year into the local economy.

The C-130H aircraft stationed in Vienna is the U.S. military’s primary combat delivery aircraft and has provided humanitarian assistance, precision airdrop and tactical airlift missions across the globe for more than four decades.

At the 910th, the C-130H aircraft also have been used in conjunction with the nation’s only aerial spray unit to spray for mosquito control in the U.S. and help with the cleanup of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and humanitarian drops for refugees in Iraq. It also has very specific tactical mission assignments to fulfill in times of war. All the assignments are of the utmost importance.

Local residents must understand the importance of the air station and its role in the local economy in order to help support the push to keep it here.

Even more important is the support from organizations like the Regional Chamber, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, as well as area businesses and elected and appointed area leadership.

To launch the commission and retain Abruzzino, the chamber received assistance from the Western Reserve Port Authority, which oversees the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. The airport shares runways with the adjacent air station. In March, the port authority agreed to give the chamber $75,000 to help establish, fund and staff a commission to be an advocate for the air station.

A similar effort, called “Save Our Air Reserve Station,” that was led by the Chamber in 2005 was successful in maintaining the local operation during that round of base closures.

This strong local support demonstrates to our nation’s leaders and decision makers that the value of the air base is immeasurable. Support and high energy like this must continue in order to prove that the Youngstown Air Reserve Station is vital to our Valley.