I would like to take this opportunity to thank the letter writer of last Monday for his letter to the editor in which he expressed an interest in the 910th Airlift Wing located at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
By doing so, he reminds me that we need to do a better job of telling the story of what our dedicated citizen airmen do out here on a daily basis to serve their country.
Our main purpose here is to train reservists. These citizen airmen, like your neighbor, your barber, or perhaps your mail carrier, are ready to respond if their country should ever call on their services. We fly many missions every year supporting virtually all branches of the military worldwide. We provide the airborne platform for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps paratroop jumpers. We provide an oil spill dispersant capability for the U.S. Coast Guard; we provide a capability for disease control with our mosquito and sand flea spray missions; we provide a foliage eradication capability on our military bombing ranges in the West; and we provide aeromedical evacuation training for units across the country.
In addition to our routine military cargo hauling, we fly numerous humanitarian relief missions every year. We've hauled volunteers, medical teams and relief supplies for disasters from Hurricane Andrew to Hurricane Floyd. And yes, we did spray in North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd, but it was three of our aircraft, not one, and we sprayed over 2.5 million acres, not because of pig manure but because of the risk of disease that could be carried by mosquitoes. To do this, we use our aerial spray mission capability -- a mission that exists nowhere else in the Department of Defense.
Almost monthly, we haul charitable goods in support of the Denton Amendment -- a law that allows us to transport donated food, clothing and other needed supplies to poverty-stricken countries in Central and South America. Also, in the past year, over 590 men and women from the 910th Airlift Wing have deployed all over the world to places such as Korea, Spain, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Puerto Rico, just to name a few. These people were away from home for 9,456 days in support of our active-duty counterparts as part of the Aerospace Expeditionary Force.
As if all this were not enough to keep us busy, the 1,500 men and women of the 910th Airlift Wing are also very active in community outreach programs. We host an annual youth camp at the base; we host a physically challenged sports jamboree each year in conjunction with Ameritech; we conduct a Pilot for a Day program for children who suffer with chronic or life-threatening illnesses; and for the past two years, we've also hosted the Trumbull County Chapter of the Red Cross M*A*S*H Bash event to raise funds for its disaster service programs. In addition, the 910th also sponsors a Boy Scout troop, an Air Force Junior ROTC detachment, and a Civil Air Patrol squadron; all organizations that help mold tomorrow's leaders.
I can tell you the economic impact of the air base infuses over $56 million annually into the local economy. I can also tell you that the outstanding support we receive from the community is like no other I have experienced in my 30-plus year career in many different parts of the country.
Many people visit our base each year as part of our tour program and have witnessed first-hand the pride of the people who work here each day and the meticulous manner with which the base and our aircraft are maintained.
Hopefully this helps last week's letter writer in his search for a reason to keep Youngstown Air Reserve Station open. Yes, millions of dollars could be spent on other things; but remember, the reason we can make these choices is because we live in a free country. But more importantly, remember, the cost of freedom is not free.
MICHAEL F. GJEDE, Brig. Gen., USAFR
910th Airlift Wing