Leader at air base calls on community to fight cuts
By William K. Alcorn
The federal budget that proposes reductions in personnel and in transport and cargo aircraft assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station is not set in stone.
The budget, if passed as proposed, would cut the number of C-130s from 12 assigned to the 910th in 2003 to eight, just half the number of planes based at the 910th before 2003.
Originally, it was thought the 910th would end up with 10 C-130s. Col. Reinhard L. Schmidt, commander of the 910th and the air station, however, said two planes on loan from the 910th to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas have been permanently assigned to Little Rock and will not be returned to the 910th.
The budget proposal would also result in a net reduction of 97 traditional part-time reservists who do their monthly training at YARS and 33 full-time equivalent federal civilian employees and Air Reserve technicians, Schmidt said.
But, he added, there is still time for community organizations to impact the budget, which is being considered in Congress, by letting their elected officials know they want the 910th to remain intact or even grow.
Schmidt believes the Save Our Airbase/Reservists (SOAR) campaign, initiated in 2005 during the last Base Closure and Realingment Commission (BRAC) round, was “highly instrumental” in making BRAC aware of the importance of the air station’s economic impact on the area’s economy.
The Youngstown air base survived the 2005 BRAC without losing planes or personnel.
Schmidt said the air station, one of the area’s largest employers, contributes an estimated $115 million to the local economy. He said the proposed cuts to the 910th would reduce that impact by 7 percent or by about $8 million.
The SOAR campaign was supported by the area’s elected U.S. and local legislators, the Regional Chamber, Trumbull 100, the Buckeye Club, veterans organizations and others.
Schmidt, who has been commander for four months, said one of his goals is to strengthen and expand partnerships for the benefit of the air station and the community.
He said the 2005 BRAC brought a lot of attention to YARS, but he has encountered people not very far from here who are still unaware of the Youngstown Air Reserve Stations.
The air station has several things working in its favor, Schmidt said.
It has the capacity and infrastructure to expand to two squadrons of C-130s and accompanying personnel; moving its unique aerial spray mission would be costly; and there is room for other service branch units, such as the Navy and Marine Corps units housed there now.
There is also room for expansion of its Medical Support Squadron to a full-blown aero-medical evacuation and other reserve combat-support missions. Also, the area’s air space is not congested, Schmidt said.
He said people can learn about the 910th by visiting its website at www.youngstown.afrc.af.mil or log on to Facebook and search Youngstown Air Reserve Station.