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Millions in funding awarded to Air National Guard

November 23, 2001|By KEVIN VERZICH

Millions in funding awarded to Air National Guard



Larger equipment can mean more responsibilities. That may be the case at the Air National Guard in Martinsburg with the recent approval of more than $38 million in funding for Guard facilities throughout West Virginia.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., announced last week that he added $2 million to appropriations legislation for design upgrades at the Martinsburg base, home to the 167th Airlift Wing. Another $3 million was included in the bill for planning and design of a joint Air and Army National Guard Center.

"The men and women of the West Virginia National Guard are our first line of defense in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack," Byrd said in the prepared statement. "The events of Sept. 11 have only confirmed the importance and necessity of well-trained and well-prepared citizen-soldiers.

"The National Guard is examining changes to its forces across the country. In order to best prepare the Martinsburg Air Guard for an expanded role, I have added $2 million to this appropriations bill for the planning of an airport runway extension and other facility improvements," Byrd said in the statement.

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Major Mike Cadle, public affairs officer at the West Virginia National Guard headquarters in Charleston, said everything is in the design phase. Included in the designs are airfield improvements, runway extensions and parking apron improvements.

The renovations are being proposed to change the mission of the Martinsburg base from a short-haul facility to a long-haul facility.

"Runway extensions will become necessary if the decision is made to use the 167th as a base for larger aircraft, including C-5 and C-17 planes," Cadle said. "The new mission has not been approved as of yet, but if it is, new responsibilities will be added to the Martinsburg post.

"A C-130 can only fly for limited times before it needs to be refueled, and it can only carry a limited amount of cargo," he said.

The approved funding will only cover the design phase of the proposed projects, Cadle said. Additional funding will be required if and when approval to construct is granted.

Byrd also included funding for the planning of a joint Air and Army National Guard Center to be constructed on state property near the Martinsburg base.

"The West Virginia National Guard is a community-based defense force," Byrd said in the statement. "Our state's armories and air bases provide facilities for more than 6,200 National Guard personnel. The proposed joint Guard Center will be an integral piece of our state's National Guard and Reserve network."

Cadle said the location of the proposed joint center has not yet been identified. He said the facilities will be in the general vicinity of the current base.

"The center will not combine the two forces as one unit; they will still have different missions," Cadle said. "However, it will provide a measure for modernization and will, in the process, cut costs. The facility will house joint classrooms, and training facilities for both units."

Cadle said if all of the design proposals are approved and funding secured for the construction phase, the personnel requirements at the base will increase by at least 25 percent.

"Negotiations are still being made as to whether to locate a new weapons system in Martinsburg," Cadle said. "But if the decision is made, there will be a need for more full-time civilian and military personnel in Martinsburg."

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