Vanderhoof vows fight to prevent Reno Air Guard transfer
Maj. Gen. Giles Vanderhoof, outgoing adjutant general of the Nevada National Guard, said Friday the U.S. Defense Department plan to transfer a C130 heavy lift squadron from Reno to Arkansas would expose the state’s residents to dangers both from natural disasters and potential terror attacks.
Joined by Col. Cindy Kirkland, who will take over as adjutant general Wednesday, he said the state has a good case because the decision was made without fairly reviewing the consequences and without consulting with state officials who, he argued, have the final say.
“The general officer in charge of BRAC (the Base Realignment And Closure program) for the Air Force openly admitted we were intentionally excluded from the process,” Vanderhoof said. “The Army bases all had input. The Air Force chose to keep it a secretive process and keep us out of it.”
He said the announcement that more than half the Reno Air National Guard’s operations would be transferred elsewhere came out of the blue.
“I feel like I got dealt one from the bottom of the deck,” he said. “We are not going to accept this.”
He said another “bottom of the deck” move by the defense department was to bar federal military personnel such as Kirkland from talking about the recommendations “unless it’s in support.”
As adjutant general, Vanderhoof is a state employee not bound by that restriction. Kirkland will be promoted to brigadier general and become a state employee when she takes over Wednesday.
At that point, she said, she will be free to take up the fight alongside Vanderhoof, who will be Nevada’s director of homeland security.
He said Nevada’s hole card is a federal law giving Nevada’s governor a final say in whether any National Guard unit is transferred out of the state. He said Gov. Kenny Guinn has already joined more than 15 other governors in sending letters to the Secretary of Defense citing that law. He said two states have already threatened suit.
Vanderhoof said the guard, unlike the regular, active military, has a dual mission – federal and state.
“They just cut the head off the state mission and did not consider homeland security in this mission,” he said.
Vanderhoof said Reno’s C130s are one of only two squadrons west of the Rockies capable of heavy lift missions. He said they would be critical if a biological or chemical terrorist incident occurred to move special teams in and around Nevada.
He said they also have highly specialized imaging equipment that can spot enemy vehicles and troop concentrations at night and beneath heavy foliage and map hot spots in a forest fire despite heavy smoke.
Even less logical, he said, the Air Force plan is to move the aircraft but leave the high-tech intelligence center and its skilled personnel who analyze data collected by those aircraft in Reno.
For the city, he said the loss of the C130s, the personnel and other functions that go with them would cost the Reno area economy at least $22 million a year.
He said backed by the governor’s letter, the Nevada Guard would take its case to the BRAC commission and point out the numerous errors and omissions in the report recommending the transfer.
“It was a skewed process,” he said. “Their figures are not accurate.”
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.