Keesler Keeping Squadron With 10 Transport Planes

BILOXI, MS (AP) — Keesler Air Force Base in south Mississippi will keep the 815th Tactical Airlift Squadron and its 10 transport planes, federal officials said Tuesday.

         The Air Force had considered moving the squadron to another state, but announced Tuesday that the group will remain at Keesler. The C130-J planes are known as "Flying Jennies."

         Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and members of Mississippi's congressional delegation had tried for more than three years to persuade the Pentagon to keep the squadron at Keesler.

         In a joint statement, Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker and Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo praised the Air Force announcement.

         "The Air Force proposal to relocate aircraft from south Mississippi never made sense from an operational or taxpayer perspective, two points that we've stressed from the beginning," said Cochran, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman. "The reexamination and rejection of that plan is the right decision, and I look forward to additional conversations with the Air Force to ensure the manpower and mission of the 815th Tactical Airlift Squadron are fully restored."

         The Mississippi congressional delegation put restrictions in a defense bill that required the Air Force to give detailed reports to Congress about the feasibility of moving the 815th away from Keesler. The restrictions banned the Air Force from moving the planes until after the reports were filed.

         Wicker said the decision to keep the planes at Keesler brings stability to the base and surrounding communities.

         "We successfully made the case that the transfer of the planes would not achieve the savings the Air Force seemed to suggest," Wicker said. "This was not an easy fight, but it was one that needed to be fought."

         Palazzo, whose district includes Keesler, called Tuesday's announcement "a great victory for south Mississippi."

         "For more than three years we have demanded the Air Force provide adequate justification for moving our C-130Js," Palazzo said. "With today's confirmation that Keesler's planes will stay where they belong, we can finally put this issue to bed."

         Bryant said he joined with leaders of other Gulf Coast states in pushing to keep the transport planes based where they can help with hurricane response.

         "This is outstanding news for Keesler, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the entire state of Mississippi," Bryant said. "Mississippi's military facilities are vital to the state's economy."




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