Senator John Hoeven welcomed Senator John McCain to North Dakota today, and provided the Arizona senator with a tour of the North Dakota Air National Guard base in Fargo. The senators reviewed the Air Guard's Predator and C-21 missions, as well as the transition to the C-27J mission. The senators also thanked the airmen for their exemplary service to the nation.
Senator McCain is Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Last year, the North Dakota National Air Guard 119th Wing won the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. It was the 14th time the Wing has received this award, which recognizes excellence in military performance.
On hand to greet Senators Hoeven and McCain were Governor Jack Dalrymple, Congressman Rick Berg, N.D. Adjutant General David Sprynczynatyk, and Col. Rick Gibney, Wing Commander of the 119th Wing, the "Happy Hooligans."
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee included language in the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization bill to block the Administration's proposal to cut the C-27J cargo fleet and ensure its continued use by the U.S. Air Force, as authorized in the Senate FY 2012 Defense Authorization bill that passed last December. The Air Guard in Fargo is in line to base and maintain four C-27J aircraft.
The fleet is fully paid for and authorized, Hoeven said, and committee approval is another step forward in securing the C-27J mission for the North Dakota Air National Guard. The senator worked to secure funding for the C-27J in the current FY 2012 appropriations process as a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.
"We're extremely fortunate to have Sen. McCain, a well-known, widely respected senator and war hero, visit North Dakota to see the tremendous contribution our Air National Guard makes to the nation's defenses," Hoeven said. "We especially wanted to make sure he could see for himself how important the C-27J mission is to the work they do, and we also wanted to thank our airmen for their sacrifices, both here and abroad."
"We are very pleased that Sen. McCain accepted Sen. Hoeven's invitation to tour the Air National Guard base in Fargo and to listen to a discussion about the C-27J outlook," Gov. Dalrymple said. "It was a valuable opportunity for Sen. McCain to see for himself what an outstanding unit we have in North Dakota. We understand that everyone has to do their part in reducing the federal deficit, but the Defense Department's proposed budget calls for disproportionate funding cuts for the nation's Air National Guard. We will continue to work with our Congressional Delegation to maintain a flying mission at the 119th Wing which is in the best interests of North Dakota and the entire nation."
"The C-27J mission is extremely important to the Happy Hooligans of the 119th Wing and the entire Fargo metropolitan area," said Congressman Berg. The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act preserves this mission, and I know Senator Hoeven will do a great job of showing Senator McCain just how important it is to preserve it in the Senate version as well. I will continue working with them as our efforts to preserve the C-27J mission move forward."