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Craig Whitney, Published May 23 2012

Placing C-27s at Fargo base is the right call for nation

Russ Handegard had it right when he stated in a May 15 opinion piece, “What we need are some true vegetarians who will actually change our national dietary habits.” He just had the methodology wrong. The Air Force cut the C-27 from the budget to preserve active-duty airlift capability when it is more affordable for the Air National Guard to provide the same capability for our nation.

Our entire North Dakota congressional delegation is leading the effort to support the C-27s for the Air National Guard, and rightly so. When the Air National Guard initially accepted the new C-27 initiative, it did so in consideration that the

C-27 was an ideal aircraft to support the nation’s homeland defense mission and a whole lot more. The Army’s aging Sherpa and helicopter fleets would receive a welcome and capable tactical airlift platform in the C-27. The

C-27s will provide valuable airlift in support of ongoing overseas missions. In addition, the C-27s will provide priceless time in the cockpit for the pilots to hone their flying skills.

The C-27s will be dispersed across the Federal Emergency Management Administration regions with a key mission of providing airlift here at home in support of homeland security. Ask any governor if they could do without airlift in providing support for the safety and security of their state’s residents.

Yes, the city of Fargo benefits from federal support of its airfield. Fargo is not alone – 75 percent of Air National Guard airfields are “dual use” with civilian airfields. Yes, the Guard strengthens communities with air traffic control and firefighting capabilities. Just $4 million in taxpayer money yields $12 billion in airfield facilities across the nation.

The Air National Guard is the best value for America and whenever you can put capabilities in the hands of the Air National Guard, our citizens are getting more bang for their tax dollars. Why? The Air National Guard members provide full-time readiness at a part- time cost with minimal burden on our taxpayers unless called for active duty.

Research has found that reservists are the best buy for the taxpayer by any metric. They are a cost-effective source of trained manpower, particularly as the cost of active-duty manpower has grown exponentially in recent years.

The bottom line: There are 106,700 dedicated Americans on call in 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, serving our nation for a fraction of what it costs the Air Force to do the same job. Basing the C-27 in Fargo is the right thing to do for the 119th Wing, the state of North Dakota and our nation.


Whitney is president and CEO of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.