Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s long, soaring history told

VIENNA — You could say that no discussion of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s long, soaring history is complete without also considering how expansive it is.

“This is a very versatile aircraft,” Maj. Scott Allen said, referring to the C-130B plane, the first of which YARS received in March 1981.

Nearly 39 years later, the Western Reserve Port Authority is in the final stages of negotiations with a private landowner to buy nearly 43 acres just south of King Graves Road in Vienna. Part of the property will be used to install an $8.8 million main entrance to the station, Allen explained during a one-hour lecture on YARS’ history he gave on Saturday at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library’s Howland branch.

The air reserve station shares runways with the adjacent Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority operates.

The new front gate is necessary largely because the current entrance does not meet certain security requirements, Allen, the 910th Airlift Wing’s chief of public affairs, noted.

“We’re in the final stages of procuring that land and getting that project started,” he told the estimated 60 veterans and others who attended the program to learn more about the installation’s 65-year history.

In March 1952, about 12 years after the airport opened to civilian air traffic, nearby open land was considered for an airbase, said Allen, who showed the standing-room-only crowd several black-and-white aerial photographs of the area taken in 1957.

He also showed a photo taken in 1958 of a plane from the 79th Fighter Group, which was the host unit three years earlier at what was then the Youngstown Air Force Base. Another photograph was of famous singer, comedian and activist Sammy Davis Jr., who visited the facility.

“In 1963, our mission became more focused on cargo. We had several missions at the same time,” Allen said.

Also that year, the 910th Troop Carrier Group was established as the host wing’s heritage unit.

In March 1979, the 910th adopted an airlift mission, and two years later, the 910th Tactical Airlift Group received its first C-130B aircraft, Allen said, adding that such planes had the capacity to carry up to 92 troops, 64 paratroopers and 45,000 pounds of cargo.

In addition, Allen touted the 910th Airlift Wing’s large area fixed-spray operation, the only such unit in the U.S. Department of Defense, saying its three primary purposes are controlling mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects, handling oil spills and removing unwanted vegetation and overgrowth.

The operation, which began about 30 years ago, was called to assist with eradicating mosquitos in a portion of eastern Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that caused massive flooding in parts of Texas and Louisiana after making landfall in August 2017.

“We are more lethal than the Army, the Navy and the Marines. We kill trillions,” he said to laughter, referring to the mosquitos.

“We used Dawn dish soap in the water” as a way to disperse oil after the catastrophic April 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

Part of that mission also was to break up oil that had coagulated on the surface, then allow it to sink and be eaten by certain types of organisms, he continued.

Allen also discussed YARS’ $7.3 million Combat Arms Training and Maintenance firing range, which opened in July 2018 and is designed to enhance the 910th Security Force Squadron’s mission capabilities. Its other main purpose is to offer the potential for local, state and federal law-enforcement entities to use it for official weapons training, he noted.

In addition, YARS is Trumbull County’s No. 1 employer, with nearly 1,900 full- and part-time assigned personnel. The facility also contributes more than $100 million to the local economy each year, he said.

“We are a miniature city,” Allen said.