Good, bad news for base

July 2, 2009

There is good and bad news for Whiteman Air Force Base in the Air Force realignment proposal released last week.

The base may be picking up more than 230 additional service members and seven civilian positions while losing another 101 personnel along with three aircraft in the proposed realignment.

According to the Air Force, the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman could take on an additional 227 military personnel and two civilian positions, and the 498th Munitions Maintenance Group would see an increase of seven military and five civilian positions.

The new staff will support the Air Force’s Nuclear Enterprise, according to a release from U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Whiteman Air Force Base is ideally suited to welcome additional service members. So, I was, of course, extremely pleased to learn of the recent decision to send 234 more airmen to the base,” Skelton said.

Meanwhile, the 442nd Fighter Wing based at Whiteman could be losing 101 positions in the realignment. The restructuring plan calls for a decrease of 90 part-time and 11 full-time positions. The unit is currently authorized 1,048 positions, including 262 full-time air reserves technicians, at the base.

The 442nd Fighter Wing may also lose three of its A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, according to the realignment proposal. The unit moved its A-10s to Whiteman in 1994, and if the cuts are made the number of aircraft for the wing would drop from 24 to 21 sometime in 2010.

Col. Mark Clemons, commander of the 442nd Fighter Wing, said the personnel cuts would likely come from the areas of aircraft maintenance and operations.

“While we don’t know exactly which positions the proposal covers, we know that they will probably be tied to the loss of our three aircraft,” Clemons said.

The 101 positions would be distributed among other mission areas in the Air Force Reserve, according to the proposal.

“Although I am disappointed by the decision to move 101 airmen from the base, no one should doubt that I will keep reminding the Pentagon that Whiteman Air Force Base is a national treasure,” Skelton stated. “As one of America’s premier military installations, I am hopeful that great things will continue for Whiteman in the years ahead.”

The Air Force will finalize the realignment and announce the updated force structure to Congress in November or December, after which time the transfers at the base will take place.

“The force structure announcement reflects our best effort to meet the expanding Air Force mission areas and growing join demands,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in a release on the realignment.