U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley today asking him to consider making Pittsburgh's 171st Air Refueling Wing the first Air National Guard main operating base for KC-46A tanker aircraft.
"When air operations over Libya began last year, the 171st ARW answered the call to service and deployed immediately to the Mediterranean. The personnel of the 171st ARW performed courageously over the Mediterranean by providing refueling support to U.S. and international forces. The people of Pittsburgh are proud of this service and are ready to serve once again," the senators write.
Pennsylvania National Guard and community leaders thanked the senators for their advocacy.
"Many thanks to Sens. Toomey and Casey for their support of the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the PA Air Guard for the favorable consideration of this outstanding organization to be the first in the Air Guard to receive the new KC 46 tanker aircraft. They are widely recognized as the best in the entire Reserve Component, as their extraordinary service most recently running the air refueling operations for the NATO strike aircraft against Libya made clear to everyone. Moving this new tanker to the 171st is a highly cost-effective way to support our Air Force. Both our senators are to be commended for their bipartisan approach," said Major General Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania's adjutant general.
"I applaud Sens. Toomey and Casey and the entire Western PA delegation for supporting efforts to bring the KC-46a tanker aircraft to the 171st Air Refueling Wing. The support for such a mission in Western Pennsylvania is tremendous. The availability of land and trained personnel at the airport, together with the low cost and high strategic value of such an operation there, would make this mission a natural fit for perhaps an even bigger joint operation in the future, including the Air Force Reserve from the 911 Airlift Wing," said Chip Holsworth, chairman of the Military Affairs Council of Western PA.
"I am extremely pleased that Pennsylvania's senators have joined in a bipartisan effort to support the National Guard and the 171st Air Refueling Wing in a truly total force effort. The 171st is a premier unit with decades of air refueling experience and the proven ability to effectively utilize the KC-46A. The new aircraft, based at Pittsburgh International, will be a great asset to the defense of our nation and a great asset to the economy of the Pittsburgh area. The men and women of the 171st have earned the opportunity, and I know that each of them appreciates the efforts of Sens. Casey and Toomey," said retired Air Force Major General Bill Lynch, a former member of the National Guard Association of the United States' board of directors.
The full text of the letter is below:
July 30, 2012
The Honorable Michael B. Donley
United States Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20339-1670
Dear Secretary Donley:
We are writing to strongly urge the Air Force to consider the 171st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) to become Main Operating Base 2 for KC-46A tanker aircraft and to conduct a site visit of the installation in the next few months.
We believe the 171st ARW is a tested and experienced installation that will score well in the criteria set forth by the Air Force in selecting sites to house the KC-46A tanker aircraft. Among them include:
* Ideal Location and Local Partners: The 171st ARW has ample access to four major runways at the Pittsburgh Airport for very low cost. The airport supports the unit's 24/7/365 operation and provides robust services which makes it one of the most reliable airports in the country for support of Air Force units. The Pittsburgh Airport Authority is also extremely supportive of the military and has committed to providing additional space for the 171st ARW as needed.
* Proximity to Air Refueling (AR) tracks. Pittsburgh is strategically located in the Northeast near major U.S. cities, the national capital region, and the jumping off point for flight routes across the Atlantic Ocean. The 171st ARW is also within 30 minutes of 11 AR tracks, 60 minutes of 35 AR tracks, and 90 minutes of 51 AR tracks. If selected for this MOB 2 assignment, the proximity of the 171st ARW to these areas will enable the Air Force to maximize security, efficiencies and operational savings.
* A Proven History of Service: The 171st ARW has operated for more than 50 years and has flown sixteen different aircraft in eight different missions. The 171st ARW was among the first units called to active duty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has greatly contributed to Homeland Security by providing continuous alert from its base (24/7/365) since that time. Over the past few years, the 171st ARW has supported many contingencies including Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Operation NOBLE EAGLE, and Operation ODYSSEY DAWN/ UNIFIED DAWN. The 171st has also deployed to Guam on multiple occasions to support the Pacific command and participated in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
When air operations over Libya began last year, the 171st ARW answered the call to service and deployed immediately to the Mediterranean. The personnel of the 171st ARW performed courageously over the Mediterranean by providing refueling support to U.S. and international forces. The people of Pittsburgh are proud of this service and are ready to serve once again.
We believe that a fair and equitable review of this unit, with its impeccable record, will show that the 171st ARW is an optimal choice for Main Operating Base 2 for KC-46A tanker aircraft. Thank you for your consideration of this issue and for your service to our country.
United States Senator
United States Senator