Col. Daniel J. Sarachene’s column published last Sunday on this page reveals a sense of urgency in his appeal for the Mahoning Valley’s support of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station that is worth noting.
Indeed, Sarachene, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing at the base in Vienna Township, was refreshingly forthright in detailing the challenges that confront the Air Force Reserve complex.
“If I could humbly make one request, it would be to urge each of you to let our elected officials know how important our installation is to you, to the Mahoning Valley and to the national defense by calling their offices, sending them an email or writing them a letter,” he wrote.
Over the years, we have issued similar appeals to residents of the region, given the uncertainties surrounding the future of the YARS.
Indeed, the shrinking of the fleet of C-130H Hercules cargo/troop planes from 12 to eight has been a major cause for concern. The aircraft were built in 1989 and 1990.
We have urged the Pentagon to upgrade the aging fleet with the new C-130J cargo planes that are now being built. There’s ample justification for the Pentagon to commit defense dollars to the base, which is home to the 910th Airlift Wing and Navy and Marine Reserve units.
Not only is the YARS one of the most efficient and cost-effective military facilities in the country, but taxpayers have received a significant return on the millions of dollars invested in it.
The 910th has the Department of Defense’s only large area – 5,000 acres or more – fixed-wing aerial spray capability to control disease-carrying insects, pest insects and undesirable vegetation. Its mission also includes dispersing oil spills in large bodies of water.
Because of new flying regulations, the existing planes are being electronically updated with an “avoidance warning system” to enable them to continue flying in congested air spaces, such as the East Coast and Europe.
But the installation is deserving of the new C-130J airplanes because it has a mission that’s essential to America’s national security demands.
In his column Sunday, Col. Sarachene also made the pertinent point that the base is an integral part of the Mahoning Valley’s economy.
“ … the closure of YARS and the loss of the installation’s $100 million annual economic impact and its role as one of the area’s top employers would absolutely devastate the Mahoning Valley,” he wrote.
The commander noted there are 1,600 reservists who call the base their “military home,” and of those, more than 1,100 live within 70 miles of their workplace.
We aren’t exaggerating when we characterize Sarachene’s piece as an impassioned call to arms. He, more than anyone else today, recognizes what’s at stake and what needs to be done to solidify the YARS’ future.
It’s encouraging that Ohio’s congressional delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and the state’s two U.S. senators, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican, have remained steadfast in fighting for federal dollars to be allocated to facility.
It is also noteworthy that Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich and the Republican-controlled General Assembly are of one mind when it comes to protecting Ohio’s military installations.
But as Col. Sarachene noted, the people of the Mahoning Valley hold the key to the future. Their voices must be heard loudly and clearly in Washington and Columbus.
We, thus, renew our call to President Donald J. Trump to keep his promises to this region to restore its economic might.
Trump, who beat the odds in last year’s presidential election by carrying the predominantly Democratic Trumbull County and doing better than expected in Democratic Mahoning County, is seeking an increase in military spending.
We believe the YARS should benefit from the president’s spending priorities and that the Pentagon should move quickly to build up the fleet of aircraft assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing with the new C-130J airplanes.
Col. Sarachene’s column should be required reading in Washington and Columbus.