Kirkland salutes decision not to move Air Guard | NevadaAppeal.com

Kirkland salutes decision not to move Air Guard

The state’s ability to respond to wildfires and other emergencies will remain intact now that the Nevada Air Guard’s 152nd Airlift squadron is staying in Reno.

As it did with the Hawthorne Army Depot earlier in the week, the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission reversed itself and decided Friday not to cut back military operations in Nevada.

Adjutant General Cindy Kirkland thanked Nevada’s congressional delegation for fighting the closure recommendations that would have shut down Hawthorne’s munitions deactivation plant and moved the eight C-130 cargo planes to Arkansas. She gave special credit to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who she said arranged for members of the BRAC commission to personally visit both the Reno Air Guard wing and Hawthorne.

“Getting those commissioners to visit was what enabled us to turn it around,” she said..

Kirkland said the C-130s are vital to Nevada because they have the ability to move large amounts of heavy equipment and personnel around the state in case of emergency.

“The Homeland Security impact to the state would have been disastrous,” she said.

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She said they also provide critical support in fighting wildfires because they have imaging equipment that can see through the smoke, pinpoint actual fire lines, the direction of the fire and hot spots.

“What’s hopeful now is since we’re keeping the planes, we may be in line to receive the MAFFS,” she said.

MAFFS stands for Mobile Air Firefighting System.

“We won’t face painful cuts at either the Reno Air National Guard base or at the Hawthorne Army Depot,” said Reid.

Moving the air wing would have cost 147 jobs. The Hawthorne closure would have cost 565 jobs directly and as many more because of damage to that community’s economy.

He credited the personnel at those installations for convincing commissioners to change the recommendations.

“I’m very pleased the commissioners understood their value to our state,” said Reid.

He was joined by Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Reno, a former pilot at the Reno based Air Guard unit.

He said the base plays a “critical role” in both national and Nevada and pointed out that moving the wing to Arkansas would have “removed C-130s from the entire northwest corner of the U.S. having an adverse impact on our nation’s readiness in regard to homeland security and availability in responding to natural disasters.

He thanked the commissioners for recognizing the importance of the air guard wing to Nevada and the west.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.