State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, is urging the public to attend the April 3 rally to save the 911th Air Reserve Wing and the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania National Guard based at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township.
The Air Force plans to close the 911th Air Reserve Wing and downsize the 171st Air Refueling Wing in the coming weeks. Members of the 911th began receiving their reassignment notices last week.
Rep. Readshaw is among the local and statewide officials who have called on the Air Force to keep the wings at their current levels. He is co-chairman of the General Assembly's Military Installations and Base Development Caucus. The caucus is dedicated to preserving military installations in Pennsylvania in the event of base closure considerations, including those of the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
Rep. Readshaw called into question the rationality of the changes imposed on the two units, citing contentions that the Air Force study of the cost-effectiveness of the realignments is based on inaccurate information.
The Air Force contends the realignments are necessary to accommodate reductions in armed forces spending by the federal government.
"The Pittsburgh plans are in direct opposition to federal and state initiatives to stimulate the economy and preserve jobs," said Rep. Readshaw. "Whose fault is it that the aircraft assigned here are aging? It's not the fault of the men and women of the Guard and Reserve based here. It's the fault of the higher command structure that newer aircraft were not cycled in."
According to the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, the planned closure of the Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing would have a dramatic impact on the local and regional economy. About 1,300 members of the military and Reserves operate out of the base, which also employs more than 300 civilian personnel. It is also believed nearly 1,000 jobs off the base involving contractors, suppliers, food sales and retail businesses would also be threatened.
Rep. Readshaw emphasized support of the two air wings is not a partisan issue, but "given the magnitude of the proposed changes, I believe it would be good for Gov. Tom Corbett to take a more visible role in helping. He may be working behind-the-scenes but his public involvement would add more weight to our appeal to the Air Force to reconsider its decisions and would boost to the people rallying that cause."