Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released the following statement on the United States Air Force (USAF)'s announcement that the four C-27J aircraft will be removed from the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio National Guard Base at Mansfield-Lahm Airport and eight C-130s will be added, along with personnel:
"It's been a long fight to show the White House that getting rid of the 179th was the wrong decision. These courageous men and women have remained strong in the face of adversity, and I have no doubt the Airmen of the 179th will excel as they fulfill their new mission to protect and strengthen our nation."
In May 2012, Portman, then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, fought for Ohio's military men and women while also balancing the need for a strong national defense plan that is fiscally responsible during the committee's mark-up of the Department of Defense Authorization for 2013, preventing elimination of C-27J planes and jobs at the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield. On March 20, 2012, Portman pushed Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz on the C-27J to ensure that the Air Force and Senate Armed Services Committee reconsider the Air Force proposal.
The President's budget originally proposed mothballing the four C-27Js in Mansfield and separating the 800 Guardsmen assigned to the 179th Airlift Wing. In July 2012, when President Obama was flying into Mansfield Lahm Airport as part of a campaign stop, Portman called attention to the President's proposed Air National Guard cuts that would threaten the base's very existence despite the 179th winning Best Overall Air National Guard unit prize this year. The President's spokesperson was caught unaware of White House's plans to shut down its 179th Air National Guard Wing unit. Shortly thereafter, the President announced his before-then unpublicized commitment to finding a mission for the 800 Guardsmen at the 179th.
On August 1, 2012, Portman sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley asking for more information regarding what the Air Force knows about President Obama's about-face on the future of the Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard base. Following these events, the Air Force proposed retaining the personnel of the 179th Airlift Wing and assigning the unit C-130 aircraft in place of their currently assigned C-27J aircraft.
In December 2012, Portman, a conferee on the Department of Defense Authorization for 2013, pushed for the establishment of a National Commission to review the long-term structure of the Air Force which was included in the final version of the bill that passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law by the President. The legislation also requires the Air Force to retain 32 additional cargo aircraft, either C-130 or C-27J aircraft, in its inventory to fulfill the time-sensitive, mission-critical, intra-theater airlift mission performed by units like the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield.