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Senator Stabenow meets the troops at the 110th Attack Wing on Presidents Day

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kelly Black
  • 110th Attack Wing
BATTLE CREEK AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, MICHIGAN - Senator Debbie Stabenow met the troops during the Presidents Day weekend, at the 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. She received briefings from the Adjutant General of Michigan - Major General Gregory Vadnais, the 110th Attack Wing Commander - Colonel Ronald Wilson and the Fort Custer Training Center Post Commander - Lieutenant Colonel Mark Gorzynski.

Colonel Kier Knapp outlined the excellent opportunities for Remote Piloted Aircraft to support Michigan's interests in addition to U.S. missions. "This aircraft is a little larger than an A-10, with a 66ft wingspan making it very stable; its ability to stay in the air for extended periods and excellent cameras are well suited to wildfire spotting, search & rescue for lost people and in support of natural disaster victims". He noted that such support is currently challenging due to FAA regulations since the base does not have authorization for a "launch and recovery element" for personnel or any aircraft assigned to Battle Creek. 

217th Air Operations Group Commander, Colonel Sean Southworth explained that his command has the only forces within the Air Force assigned to U.S. Air Forces-Africa. He indicated how his Air Operations Center and Contingency planners have steadily provided troops to support Europe and Africa; most recently in response to the Ebola threat. His command includes experts in over 90 different jobs, including logistics, infrastructure, communications, fire-protection, security, medical and air-traffic managers in addition to senior-pilot positions. His expansive command & control centers have been noted for their potential to support FEMA, in addition to their other missions. He noted that the pending cut of 50 personnel, eliminating the mobility squadron that is basic to controlling movement of people and equipment in such a vast area as Africa, is a significant challenge.

Major General Vadnais adroitly responded to Senator Stabenow's questions regarding manpower cuts and the lack of a full-time flight surgeon (a doctor specific to pilots). He showed that 37% of all Air Force cuts within the Air National Guard since fiscal year 2012 were from Michigan. "That's 631 job cuts from Michigan, compared to 1069 for all other states combined". The Adjutant General also elaborated on the challenges associated with being in 50th place for DoD Employees, DoD Payrolls and DoD Dollars, with having lost all four of its Active Duty Air Force bases and currently being in 47th place for Army & Air Force bases. Senator Stabenow showed clear interest and resolve in correcting this situation. She simultaneously directed her staff to obtain related details before turning to the Cyber-defense mission discussion. Major General Vadnais provided an overview of work between the Merit Group, Battle Creek's 110th Attack Wing and Governor Snyder that established a pilot-program defending Michigan Business, Utilities and infrastructure from malicious Cyber-attacks. Further, the program matches with Governor Snyder's education incentives that resulted in the 110th partnering with WMU, CMU, KCC and Siena Heights. The Cyber-Defense mission, which started over a year ago, has already successfully defended Michigan interests.

Lieutenant Colonel Gorzynski provided Senator Stabenow with an update regarding the Ballistic Missile Defense System and answered her associated questions. The system provides a way to intercept Missiles launched at the continental U.S. while they are still in space over the north-pole and without using an explosive war-head. Battle Creek offers several noted advantages over the remaining contending sites, such as least overall cost (due to existing infrastructure) and thus least time to operational capability. Senator Stabenow showed marked interest in this Defense system and how Michigan is in position to best meet this Defense needs and return DoD jobs to Michigan. While addressing the requirement to be financially responsible in our National Defense, Senator Stabenow simultaneously indicated that "...we can't afford to be in a situation where we are foolish in terms of our national threats."

"The 110th Attack Wing was honored to have Senator Stabenow visit our wing" said Colonel Wilson.  "We have highlighted our challenges as a wing and in general as a Michigan National Guard as part of our Michigan community.   Senator Stabenow is very supportive for us gaining an RPA launch and recovery element, a cyber-defense squadron and the regions Ballistic missile defense system."