United States Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) today were joined by Congressmen John Shimkus (R-IL-19), Tim Johnson (R-IL-15), Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17 ) in sending a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley asking that a flying mission be identified for the Illinois Air National Guard's 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield. In addition, the Illinois members asked that the 183rd be given an extension to continue firefighting capabilities beyond September 30, 2011.
"The 183rd Fighter Wing operated a flying mission in Springfield for over sixty years until the final aircraft departed in 2008. Since then, the unit has performed critical maintenance and repair on the Air National Guard's F-16 engines at a rate three times more efficient than military depots," the Illinois members write. "Moreover, the 183rd is well equipped to assume a new flying mission with its access to airport facilities and is critically positioned for rapid response to emergencies in the New Madrid Fault Line and across the nation."
The Illinois members conclude, "In addition, eliminating the current firefighting capabilities at Springfield would harm disaster response capabilities in Springfield, the rest of Illinois, and the region. A future flying mission would greatly enhance the 183rd's ability to rapidly support such disaster response in Illinois and the region."