WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter this week to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to express concerns about underutilization of the Mansfield Air National Guard Base (ANGB). Previously, Brown worked closely with the Department of Defense to bring additional C-27J airplanes to the Mansfield base, which allow for continued operation of the ANGB as a flying unit.

“Ohio has long been home to some our nation’s strongest national security assets. Our sons and daughters have gone to war and our military bases and manufacturing plants have provided the resources needed to keep America strong,” Brown said. “Now we’re advocating for the resources needed to keep Ohio strong. Continued investment in the Mansfield Joint Army-Air Base is a lasting investment in our economic and national security.”

Brown, a Mansfield native, was a strong proponent of efforts to bring the C-27Js now housed at the Base to Richland County.  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, which would bring additional planes and jobs to the Base.

Brown visited the Mansfield base last August to celebrate a new mission for the 179th Airlift Wing. Mansfield recently became a Joint Army-Air 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.

The full text of Sen. Brown’s letter to Secretary Gates is below.

The Honorable Robert M. Gates

Secretary of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am concerned that the Mansfield Joint Army-Air Base is under-utilized, and I would like to work with you to ensure that the military fully capitalizes on its operational and strategic capabilities.

I appreciated working with your office and the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force to place a C27J operational unit at the Mansfield Base.  The 179th Airlift Wing has been a leader in developing intra-service airlift doctrine and in flying in support of the war fighter and homeland defense.  Assigning the C27J operational mission to this unit has enabled the base to remain a leader in flying missions for our armed forces, and has allowed the men and women working there to continue serving our nation. 

However, I am concerned that the current total planned fleet size of 38 aircraft will prove insufficient to meet the requirements of theater commanders for intra-theater airlift. We should start now to plan for extending the procurement and increasing the operational squadrons from the current four to five or six aircraft each.

I was also disappointed to learn that Mansfield was overlooked to house the formal training unit (FTU) for the C27J.  I disagreed with the Air Force evaluation of costs associated with Mansfield, and I hope we all recognize that the base remains a top choice for future training missions.  Mansfield, and the men and women who serve there, are ready today to host a foreign military sales (FMS) training unit. 

As you know from the recent basing decision for the FTU, Mansfield meets and exceeds every requirement for hosting such a mission.  In addition, the Ohio National Guard’s previously successful FMS training at Springfield illustrates that Ohio has the physical and human capital to host a new FMS unit immediately.

As the Air Force moves forward with FMS programs, I hope you will agree that Mansfield’s ability to stand up and provide immediate world class training should and must be incorporated into the Department’s planning.

I look forward to your response on this very important issue.