Saturday, March 10, 2012

EDITORIAL >> A big boost for air base

Politicians who have been demanding less government spending are furious that the Defense Department is making cuts at military bases across the country.

Governors and members of Congress whose states are affected by the cuts are screaming bloody murder. Not in their back yards, as far as these politicians are concerned.

The armchair strategists insist the Pentagon doesn’t know anything about calculating costs and should make cuts elsewhere. The cutbacks never make sense to the critics if they affect them. Fortunately, Little Rock Air Force Base has been spared the worst cuts. It will lose a couple dozen officers and civilians, but the base will likely get 370 new active-duty airmen in the fall who will be assigned to the 19th Airlift Wing under the leadership of Col. Brian Robinson.

That’s in addition to the new Detachment 1 Reserve unit going up at the base headed by Col. Edsel (Archie) Frye. The unit, which is part of the 22nd Air Force, will have more than 700 reservists and 10 C-130s. It will complement the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing with its 790 airmen and 10 planes under the leadership of Col. Steve Eggensperger.

The world-champion 314th Airlift Wing, commanded by Col. Mark Czelusta, continues to train the best airlifters in the world with support from the 189th Airlift Wing and the Reserve unit.

The news is not good for the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, which will lose its 21 A-10 Thunderbolt fighter jets and more than 200 Guard members.

We’re lucky that Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, is a strong supporter of Little Rock Air Force Base. He was based here as a young officer and has relatives in the area. Schwartz knows our base has the finest C-130s in the world. The fleet has done tremendous work around the globe, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is also fortunate that Schwartz is putting new emphasis on a four-pronged strategy for a leaner Air Force: control of air and space, global mobility, global surveillance and reconnaissance and global strike.

Global mobility is right up there with the other key components of America’s new Air Force strategy. Global reach is what they do best at LRAFB, delivering personnel and supplies and saving lives in the process.

Because the service will be smaller—some 10,000 airmen and hundreds of planes will be scrapped—the Air Force needs more versatility and must respond more quickly to contingencies, Schwartz said. “That’s part of the rationale for the adjustments in the force mix that we proposed in the (fiscal 2013) budget,” the general pointed out.

Schwartz said it’s more important than ever before to maintain quality. It’s not enough for officials to say the Air Force is good, he added. “We really have to be good,” he insisted.

That’s always been the policy at Little Rock Air Force Base: They’re very good at what they do. Many thanks for all your great work and may your numbers multiply in the years ahead.