Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Will my Base get the BRAC 2005?

Tensions ride high around San Angelo these days. The fate of the airbase that has been here since 1947 is again in jeaopardy. BRAC 2005 is on the very horizon, and it looks like it could go either way. I've not heard a good rumor, nor do I have a good source that knows anything about the fate of the base, but I think the chances are good that it will end up on the closing list.

Goodfellow is an airbase with lots of history, and ironically, much of that history is not from its flying days. It has been a few decades since Goodfellow's flightline has heard the roar of a piston-driven propeller. Goodfellow was a primary pilot training base for the B-25 Marauder at its inception, but somehow along the years morphed into a base for training intelligence AFSCs, now both enlisted and officer.

Many intelligence specialites train here, and here the DoD's fire training is conducted as well, in a modern, multi-million dollar facility. The fire training came to Goodfellow after the last BRAC, when it was uprooted from the now defunct Chanute AFB, IL. Goodfellow has its share of training that is not really talked about that much. The locals know that the base is an intelligence training base, but many have no details to the exact nature of the training offered here at the base. That's one of the benefits of having this sort of training at Goodfellow, the city is not the prying type. They appreciate the airmen and the staff at the base, and we are accepted into the community like no where else that I have been stationed.

Goodfellow's charms, being a small, close-knit base, may also be its undoing. The trend now is for Mega-bases, where many airmen and machines can be co-located, thus saving money on costs associated with maintaining infrastructure. Also, joint is in. If an installation hosts a joint environment (how we actually operate in theater now), then that is a plus. Of course, Goodfellow is a very "joint" base, with Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines (and DoD civilians and other civilians) as well, I don't know if we have the scope to save the base from the axe.

It is true, the country saves lots of money by having Mega-bases, but one must also acknowledge a degredation in the quality-of-life for the troops, such as that which has been well documented at many locations in the country (think of a Mega-base, like Ft. Bragg, and think of the feedback, both from military and locals). Mega-bases degrade the quality-of-life for junior enlisted and officer alike, and they suffer from degraded infrastructure (they have difficulties maintaining that infrastructure for so many people), and other maladies.

Goodfellow has a special, if not sacred, place in my heart. All of the intelligence professionals of my career field and several other specialties have trained here, among those many heroes, many lost in battle or in the line of duty. We all have this common thread. Interestingly, I don't have the same connection with the Presido of Monterey Defense Foreign Language Institute, because most of the locals around that place, as beautiful as it is, would rather see the GIs hit the road. 100 percent opposite is the case here, most San Angeloans would take it very hard if they lost their airbase.

The new 17 TRW HQ building (sorely needed) under contstruction, flanked by the WWII era hangars (now rehabilitated) that line the old flightline, the Carswell Fitness Center in the background, and the Vance Deployment Center in the foreground. Notice the FEMA tarps on the roof!

The old Chapparal offered hours of off-duty entertainment before everyone had cable in their rooms and high-speed internet. We didn't have any of those things, and we were probably better off for it.

I can think back and remember my footfalls on the troopwalks of Goodfellow almost two decades past. It was even smaller and seemingly more remote then. I loved every minute of being here back then, just as I do now.

I offer a prayer of hope for "my old airpatch", I pray we have what it takes to make the cut, again.


Blogger prairie biker said...

It's a hard issue either way. The Pentagon has a responsibility to run the military as efficiently and cost effectively as possible, but when a base is closed, small towns have a hard time recovering. Rantoul probably never will. It has redeveloped some of the base but so much more of it is tangled up in a mess of EPA regulations that won't let it be used until the lead, asbestos, and other hazardous chemicals are removed. The USAF and Superfund dollars kicked in a large portion, the locals awarded themselves generous contracts for the initial work, now they can't finish it because the greedy buggers overspent to begin with. They are trying to redevelop it by extending the runway to attract heavy air cargo, but no one down here needs that.

I can't picture what would happen to San Angelo without the base. It's a nice place to live and there are so many retirees who depend on it. The ones in Rantoul where all left out to dry. All of a sudden the services they depended on were gone and they couldn't afford to move to be near another base.

Monterey is another matter entirely. The real estate the post sits on is worth more than a small fortune. If the government could win by closing and moving an installation, that would definitely be one and it wouldn't impact the community either. There certainly wouldn't be any push to try to use the 'industrial' facilities left behind. Everything would get torn down and beautiful, expensive homes would go up and straight onto the tax rolls.

6:14 AM  

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