The Canal Winchester Times

Rickenbacker hopes to land refueling fleet

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Local officials are giving their support to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base's efforts to be chosen as the home of a new fleet of air refueling tankers.

In late May, the Air Force passed over Rickenbacker as the home of the new fleet of aircraft, opting instead to send the tankers to an Air Guard base in New Hampshire.

Having the new fleet assigned to Rickenbacker would alleviate some of the effects of federal budget cuts, which resulted in the loss of six KC-135 aircraft and about 200 associated military positions as a part of the deactivation of the 145th Air Refueling Squadron.

Air National Guard spokesman Victor Wilson said housing 12 new KC-46A aircraft at Rickenbacker would require minimal modifications to current facilities, which is why military reserve units and community leaders are hopeful about the base's chances of being chosen.

"Rickenbacker is a well-maintained joint facility in excellent condition containing the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Naval, Army and Marine reserves," Wilson said. "The existing infrastructure will support the KC-46A with no additional active association requirements and the KC-46A will be accommodated on the ramp and in the existing hangars with minimum modifications."

Canal Winchester Mayor Michael Ebert and Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp both indicated the budget cuts have had an impact on their communities because so many of the troops affiliated with Rickenbacker live in or do business in the area.

Bringing the new aircraft to Rickenbacker would ultimately also bring in additional troops for many years to come.

"Our communities all have guardsmen that work on the base and that's why we need to pull together and support the addition of the new KC-46A aircraft," Ebert said. "It will not only recoup the loss of jobs there but it'll add more -- they're saying upwards of 300 new families here."

Westcamp agreed.

"They've made such an investment in the facilities at Rickenbacker I can't believe they'd waste the opportunity to bring the planes here, but it could happen," he said. "A lot of our friends work there and it's very important to our community, so I hope people show support for it."

State Rep. Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick) said she, too, is hoping the new fleet will be sent to Rickenbacker. She attended the June 10 Groveport City Council meeting to thank local officials for their continued support of the effort.

"I'm impressed by everyone coming to support this, from here all the way up to the Pentagon ... this is an opportunity for a job and learning a skill," Bishoff said. "However, in 2015, we'll see another realignment process which will decide which bases close and which stay open, so getting this additional aircraft will be really important for Rickenbacker."

Wilson asked that public comments regarding the new aircraft be emailed to ang.env.comments@ang.af.mil and should include "KC-46A Beddown EIS" in the subject line.

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