Portman: Springfield base in good position to add missions

The Air National Guard Base in Springfield has the potential to add missions in the future and is a good space in the case of a potential future base realignment process, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said during a tour of the facility Monday.

“Moving forward, this base is well-positioned,” Portman said. “There are some assets here that aren’t being fully utilized that could be used for other purposes. My job is to be helpful and try to encourage the Air Force to try to put additional missions here at this base and in the meantime, what they’re doing is absolutely essential.”

RELATED: Springfield guard base to see command change

MORE: Lawmakers push for greater role for Springfield in drone research

The visit was part of Portman’s national defense tour across Ohio. The five-day tour was scheduled to cover each of Ohio’s’s military installations, visiting 13 counties and more than 1,400 miles across the state.

The base plays an important role in the local economy, supporting more than 300 full-time and 900 part-time jobs that generate as much as $59 million in payroll.

The Springfield Air National Guard base is also one of only eight active-duty bases in the U.S. that fly unmanned aircraft. Pilots in Springfield fly the MQ-1 Predator, conducting armed reconnaissance and a variety of other missions overseas.

The base was once in jeopardy after losing a mission flying F-16s and teaching F-16 pilots. But its mission operating unmanned aircraft, along with its ties to nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, are beneficial when arguing for additional missions moving forward, Portman said.

DETAILS: Springfield leaders concerned about possible base reviews

Portman also toured Wright-Patterson Air Force Base earlier in the day.

“Both for our military and also our economy, it’s really important to have these bases here and I was really impressed with all I saw today in Springfield,” Portman said. “I expect this mission will continue to be absolutely critical and I hope to attract other missions here as well.”

The Predator drone is being phased out but the base will transition to the MQ-9 Reaper by next year.

No Base Realignment and Closure process is in the works this year, although local officials always need to be prepared, Portman said.

“The last time we did pretty well here,” Portman said. “We had a transition to make from F-16 pilots to the drone operations here, as well as the intelligence mission. But we were able to keep the people and keep most of the buildings and hangars full. And now we have the opportunity to try to procure some additional missions here, so I feel pretty good about it.”

A BRAC process could be proposed in the next couple years, he said.

READ MORE: Air Force looks to double number of drone pilots

Portman also offered his condolences to the family of Jabob Drake, 21, an electronics technician 2nd class in the U.S. Navy who died in a crash off the coast of Singapore when an oil tanker slammed into the USS John McCain. He was one of 10 sailors reported missing after the accident, and his remains were recovered over the weekend.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also issued a statement Saturday night following reports the U.S. Navy recovered Drake’s body.

“Petty Officer Drake’s passing is heartbreaking news for Ohio and for our nation,” Brown said. “Connie and I join the Champaign County community in prayers of peace and comfort for Jacob’s friends and family, as we commit to honor his memory and the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country.”

Portman said the Navy is taking the right steps to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

“This was a young man who had made a decision to be out there protecting all of us,” Portman said. “It was a freak accident. On the other hand, there have been now several accidents in the last few years and I think the Navy was smart to have taken steps to stand down and review all of our procedures. Just in the last couple months, we’ve had two accidents like this. All of our prayers and our thoughts are with the family for their sacrifice and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to tell them in person how much we appreciate their son’s service and their willingness to be one of those military families that takes the brunt of this.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Military

Wright-Patt training exercise sets off booms
Wright-Patt training exercise sets off booms

If you heard a loud noise today at Wright-Patterson, it was all part of training, a base spokesman says. The Dayton Daily News and News Center 7 were contacted by residents inquiring what was the cause of the explosion. A Wright-Patterson Explosive Ordnance Disposal bomb squad was scheduled to set off three explosions between noon and 4 p.m. Wednesday...
Work to start next month on $10.5 million Wright-Patt gateway
Work to start next month on $10.5 million Wright-Patt gateway

A new $10.5 million gateway that will consolidate two Wright-Patterson entrances into one is set to begin construction next month, a base spokesman says. A new Gate 26A, a few hundred yards from the current one, would replace a commercial delivery entrance at Gate 16A off Ohio 444, and the existing Gate 26A off Ohio 235 near the entrance to the 445th...
Top Gun pilot to speak at film screening
Top Gun pilot to speak at film screening

A real-life Top Gun is scheduled to be at a screening of Top Gun 3D at the Air Force Museum Theatre. Retired Navy Capt. Ken Ginader, a former Top Gun instructor and F-14 pilot, was set to speak at the screening of film, set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. Doors open at 6 p.m. Ginader is the first speaker in the 2018 Living History Film Series at the...
2-year deal gives big boost to defense spending, Wright-Patterson
2-year deal gives big boost to defense spending, Wright-Patterson

A two-year congressional budget deal boosts military spending by tens of billions of dollars and would eliminate the “biggest uncertainty” of automatic cuts imposed under sequestration to defense spending, a defense analyst said. Reached in the early hours Friday after a temporary stopgap funding measure expired at midnight Thursday, sending...
AF museum opens, Wright-Patt workers head to work as shutdown ends
AF museum opens, Wright-Patt workers head to work as shutdown ends

President Donald Trump has signed a two-year budget deal Friday that ended a government shutdown overnight Thursday, according to The Associated Press. Wright-Patterson employees were told to report to work Friday despite a possible shutdown and had been in a holding pattern waiting for additional word until the president signed the legislation. RELATED...
More Stories