Friday, September 03, 2010

TOP STORY > >Commander meets council members

Leader executive editor

Col. Mike Minihan, the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, introduced himself to mem-bers of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council at a luncheon Wednesday and hailed the return of 166 airmen from Iraq.

Later that evening, there was an emotional reunion on the flightline as scores of relatives and friends welcomed home the airmen. Many of them had been to Iraq more than once.

As the new commander, Minihan allowed loved ones and members of the media on the flightline, a practice that had been discontinued several years ago.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) also spoke at the luncheon and thanked Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), who was present but did not speak, for arranging millions of dollars for improvement projects at the base.

The senator said “earmarks” is not a dirty words when it comes to funding worthy local projects.
Pryor also said he wants to make the base “BRAC-proof” and keep it off the endangered list in the next round of the base realignment and closure process.

For Minihan, a veteran C-130 pilot, last month marked a returnto the air base, where he was an aircraft commander with the 61st Airlift Squadron from 1991-94.

Minihan lived in Sherwood before he was assigned to base housing. He married the former Ashley Mixon here. They have three children, Adair, Mikey and Marley. Adair, the oldest, is a sophomore at Little Rock Central, Mikey, 11, attends Lisa Academy North and Marley, 6, is in first grade at the Lisa Academy.

Always upbeat, Minihan was diagnosed with thyroid cancer by a flight surgeon at the base hospital several years ago.

He underwent two operations and radiation treatments here and recovered from the cancer.

He is the son of retired Lt. Gen. Kenneth and Barbara Minihan.

Before his return to LRAFB, Minihan was vice commander of the 60th Air Mobility Command at Travis Air Force Base in California, which is responsible for worldwide air mobility operations involving C-5, KC-10 and C-17 aircraft.

The colonel told the community council the Air Force will mark its 63rd anniversary this month. President Truman on Sept. 17, 1947, signed into law the creation of the new military branch. Until then, the Air Force was part of the Army Air Corps.

The air base will mark the anniversary on Sept. 18 at Hangar 1080.

Pryor praised Snyder for helping to push numerous improvement projects through Congress worth millions of dollars. Snyder serves on the House Armed Services Committee but is not seeking re-election.

Snyder’s support for the base includes:

$9.8 million to rebuild the flightline, which has been in disrepair for many years.

$3.9 million for a Child Development Center. In the last several years, demand for childcare at the base has grown rapidly and is expected to continue.

$10.7 million for a C-130 fuel-cell corrosion-control hangar for environmentally safe repair of fuel cells as well as corrosion control of aircraft parts.

Consolidated Family Support Services at a cost of $6.8 million includes a community center, library, airman family-readiness center and thrift shop.

Airman dormitory costing $18 million.

Security forces operations facility for $10.4 million.

Joint Education Center received $9.8 million from the Air Force. Jacksonville contributed $5 million. Construction will be completed in November.

Pryor said he wanted to expand the avionics-modernization program, which extends the life of aging C-130s with updated features that save the military millions of dollars a year.

In addition, Snyder helped preserve the C-130J program, which was scheduled for elimination. Instead, some two dozen C-130Js are to be assigned at LRAFB.

The air base will hold its open house Oct. 9-10. A quarter million people are expected to attend.