Nevada Appeal News Service
FALLON - The Naval Air Station here emerged virtually unscathed from the Pentagon's base closing recommendation issued Friday, losing only seven of its uniformed U.S. Navy population of approximately 1,200.
The Fallon air base's civilian population of about 2,000, which is composed of contractor and Department of Defense employees, also will remain intact, the Pentagon said in announcing the closure 33 major bases in 22 states.
Northern Nevada's only other military installation, however, suffered disastrously. The Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot was recommended for closure, and the Nevada Air National Guard's only airplanes, which are based at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, are to be moved to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.
Nevada's other military installation, Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, will gain an estimated 1,400 military and civilian personnel. Nellis currently has a military and civilian combined population of about 10,000.
The reduction of the seven military personnel from NAS Fallon is considered a "realignment."
The seven personnel are members of NAS Fallon's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department and will be transferred to NAS Lemoore in central California.
Speaking for NAS Fallon Public Information Officer Zip Upham said the transfer of the seven personnel "is in line with the overall (Base Realignment and Closure) process which will streamline aviation maintenance across a number of West Coast bases and help to save taxpayers' dollars."
Nevada National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Giles Vanderhoof, who also is the state's adjutant general, said the "news couldn't be worse" in describing the proposed move of the Guard's eight C-130 "Hercules" transport planes.
"These eight planes are the Air Guard's only flying assets, and their departure from Nevada would leave us with no flying mission," he told the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard. "The departure of the C-130s also would leave us in Nevada with no assets whatsoever for Homeland Security and disaster assistance."
The Pentagon's closure recommendations did not order doing away with the Air Guard's engineering, construction and supply units located at the airport's Air Guard base. However, Vanderhoof said, "what good are these units if we have no more airplanes?"
Vanderhoof, who will retire from his military positions June 11, said the transfer will cause the loss of 263 military and civilian jobs.
The major gains at Nellis Air Force Base will come with the Pentagon-recommended transfer there of nearly 50 military aircraft from bases in Utah, Alaska, Missouri, Louisiana and Idaho.
If approved by the base closing commission, the increase in personnel at Nellis AFB would approximate 14 percent. Nellis and its Indian Springs subsidiary facility are now prime locations for testing the F/A-22 Raptor, serving as the home of Red Flag pilot training, operating a weapons school, and conducting research on UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) aircraft.
Several steps remain before the recommendations become final. Including:
• Sept. 8: The Base Closure and Realignment commission must forward its report on the recommendations to the president.
• Sept. 23: The president has to accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety.
• If accepted, Congress will have 45 legislative days to reject the recommendations in their entirety or they become binding on the department.