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Commission discusses military closures

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The state commission that's trying to head off several military closures in Missouri met today in St. Louis to talk about the future of the 131st Air National Guard fighter wing.

The meeting was somewhat anti-climactic, coming on the heels of last week's hearing before a federal advisory panel in St. Louis. But officials feel they've made a solid case for keeping the 131st at Lambert Airport.

Wing commander Colonel Mike Brandt says it would cost the DoD $27 million just to move the wing, with no economic return. And Brandt says guardsmen bring a wealth of training and experience.

"And the Air Force, I think, even acknowledges the fact that the Guard's core values are the experience, continuity, stability, maturity and experience. So I don't know what happened just recently to change why the Guard's been always of value," Brandt said.

If closed, the wing could lose about 250 personnel. All 19 of the wing's aircraft could be transferred to bases in New Jersey and Nevada. Commission chairman Dalton Wright says each pilot's average of 2,200 hours of flight time makes the wing a key asset for the region.

"The typical active duty Air Force unit will have 500 hours of flight time. This unit has almost five times as much. Also, they didn't take into consideration that when the airplanes go to New Jersey and Nellis, they do not get the aviators with them. So you're going to lose a resource that's absolutely irreplaceable," said Wright.

The federal advisory panel will make a final recommendation to the president in September.