WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued the following statement today after the United States Air Force selected a base in Meridian, Mississippi as the “preferred choice” for an Air Force formal training unit (FTU) over the Mansfield Joint Army-Air Base at Mansfield Lahm Airport.
“Sending the training unit to Mississippi is like sending in a left fielder to close out the game. The Mississippi base, while fulfilling an important national security role, specializes in tanker planes, not cargo planes,” Brown said. “The 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield has more than fifty years’ experience in this field, having served in cargo plane missions ranging from Iraq and Afghanistan to assisting in relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. It was an ideal candidate for this training mission.
“The Pentagon has cited weather concerns as one reason to send this Air Force mission to Mississippi. But as any member of our nation’s Armed Forces will tell you, they don’t always have the luxury of serving in 75-degree sunshine—so why would they train in that environment?” Brown continued. “I’m deeply disappointed in the Pentagon’s decision today and will be exploring options to push Mansfield as the location for the formal training unit before a final decision is made.”
Brown has been a strong proponent of efforts to bring the C-27J Formal Training Unit to Mansfield. Yesterday, he sent a letter to Defense Secretary Gates expressing “serious concerns” regarding the Pentagon’s decision-making process regarding the C-27J FTU. In the letter, Brown cited numerous flaws within the Pentagon’s decision-making process, including potential cost miscalculations that could bias the Air Force against selecting Mansfield as the training site for the C-27J FTU. Brown also noted Mansfield’s “proven record of airlift operations” and asserts that Mansfield’s experience in this field would lead to a “significant cost savings that have not been taken into account.”
In October, Brown led a letter of the entire Ohio Congressional delegation to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force urging placement of the C-27J FTU in Mansfield.
Brown visited the Mansfield base in August to celebrate a new mission for the 179th Airlift Wing. The 179th Airlift Wing recently became a Joint Air-Army base with the addition of the Army Ohio National Guard's new fire station in May 2010. In 2005, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommended that the 179th Airlift Wing be dismantled. The base’s record and actions by the Ohio Congressional delegation have kept the base open and spurred its growth to a joint base. Brown has worked with the White House, Administration officials and Air Force and National Guard personnel to secure a new mission for the Mansfield ANGB.