Texas mission shows value of air station

The latest deployment of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 910th Airlift Wing crews and aircraft from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station to assist in flood relief efforts in Houston demonstrates two things.

First, it showcases the value of humanitarian efforts we, as a nation, take on for those in need. And second, it signifies the value the 910th Airlift Wing brings to the U.S. Air Force by maintaining and operating the nation’s only large area fixed-wing aerial spray unit in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Late last week, four Vienna-based C-130H aircraft and their crews were deployed to Texas for a four- to six-week mission to provide aerial mosquito spraying following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Airmen will spray four to five million acres of land in Texas, likely the largest spray mission the 910th has handled.

This important effort will help guard against the spread of mosquito-carrying disease like malaria, West Nile virus, Zika and various types of encephalitis, not to mention the hindrance these pests can cause for recovery effort workers.

This mission is not new because the unit previously similarly assisted in the aftermath of past natural disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by treating more than 2.8 million acres over Louisiana and Texas to eliminate mosquitoes. The aerial spray crews also assisted in the cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill and handled humanitarian air drops for refugees in Iraq. It also has specific tactical mission assignments to fulfill in times of war.

Certainly, there is a possibility these crews may be called upon again to assist in the wake of Hurricane Irma that today is pounding Florida and other southeastern U.S. states.

Friday’s deployment came only about a week after the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission’s, or EOMAC’s, annual committee meeting at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, where lawmakers spoke about the value of the commission and the future of the local air base.

EOMAC was created in 2015 to highlight the military value of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and other military stations throughout eastern Ohio.

While lawmakers said they see no immediate threat to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s future, there is never time to rest on our laurels or relax.

It’s true another Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, is not planned in the foreseeable future. Still, several area political leaders said military installations — such as the Youngstown Air Reserve Station — can be weakened by the federal government making changes in their missions and reducing funding without a BRAC.

Local officials, elected representatives and economic development experts must remain vigilant against the efforts by some to reduce the effectiveness of various Air Force bases. Despite the critical importance of a strong military for both defense and humanitarian efforts, BRAC efforts still resurface annually during budgetary hearings.

Constant upkeep and modernization of the aircraft fleet and equipment, coupled by ongoing and effective training missions of crews at the 910th Airlift Wing, are vital to keeping the Youngstown Air Reserve Station viable.

We all must remain cognizant of the defense, humanitarian and economic value of this facility, and its service men and women.

Commitments made by the airmen of the 910th Airlift Wing guarantee a quick response to those in need on a moment’s notice. It involves a sacrifice that takes them away from their homes and families without hesitation.

Americans are blessed to have the devotion of the men and women who serve, and we in Trumbull County and the Mahoning Valley are blessed to be home to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and the 910th Airlift Wing.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to have this facility continue to grow and prosper.