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Congress OKs $50 million upgrade for 167th

W.Va. Air National Guard to use money to outfit base for C-5s

W.Va. Air National Guard to use money to outfit base for C-5s

December 28, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? A $50 million allocation to upgrade the West Virginia Air National Guard base in Berkeley County for a larger fleet of planes was included in a bill approved by Congress and now is pending President Bush's approval, according to an official familiar with the project.

Capt. Melissa Shade of the 167th Airlift Wing said Wednesday she was told that the money was approved to outfit the unit's base at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport for the C-5 Galaxy airplanes.

In New England for the holiday, Airlift Wing commander Col. Roger Nye was unaware of the announcement, which was reported Wednesday by The Associated Press.

"It sounds like a nice Christmas present for the 167th from Sen. Byrd," Nye said.

In September, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd announced the $50 million allocation had cleared the Senate. The base conversion project includes a parking apron, a fuel cell maintenance hangar and shops and squadron operations facility, and other infrastructure upgrades.

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Work to cost about $260 million

Shade said work to expand the runway and build facilities for the larger aircraft is projected to cost about $260 million. Shade said cost increases in materials, particularly steel, had upped the project's cost. She said the work is expected to be completed in April 2009.

Runway expansion is expected to be completed next year after authorities stopped work because of cold weather, Shade said.

The base is shifting from its use of the C-130H-3 transport planes to the larger C-5 Galaxy aircraft. Eight C-5s now are stationed at the base, Shade said.

"We're supposed to get another one next month," Shade said. The first C-5 arrived in December 2006.

The 167th Airlift Wing provides support to military operations abroad, and has sent hundreds of members to Iraq in support of military operations there.

Byrd said in his September announcement that once the C-5 unit was fully operational, the 167th Airlift Wing was anticipating the addition of 180 full-time jobs, and the economic impact would increase to $50 million per year. The base had about 1,180 members in September, including 300 full-time members.

The West Virginia Air National Guard is comprised of the 167th Airlift Wing and the 130th Airlift Wing, which is based in Charleston.

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