Air Force to remove C-130s from Fort Bragg
Posted February 5, 2016 2:40 p.m. EST
Updated February 5, 2016 8:30 p.m. EST
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The Air Force has notified Congress that it plans to do away with a group of transport planes based at Fort Bragg.
The 440th Airlift Wing flies C-130 aircraft that support training at Fort Bragg, but military leaders said they can meet training requirements for 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers without having a dedicated fleet of planes at the post's Pope Airfield.
"The C-130 force structure reported in the ... President's Budget supports Army movement and training requirements through an efficient utilization of non-collocated aircraft," states a letter sent Thursday from the secretaries and chiefs of staff of the Air Force and Army to members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
"Without dedicated C-130 wings, the Air Force will continue to meet training and contingency support requirements of the XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. Army Special Operations Command with no adverse effect to these units' daily training requirements or readiness," the letter states.
The Air Force first targeted the 440th Airlift Wing for deactivation two years ago, but members of North Carolina's congressional delegation put up a stiff fight to keep the unit in operation. On Friday, Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis blasted the decision to remove C-130s from Fort Bragg.
"This is the latest in a series of decisions that could very well prevent our armed forces from being as prepared as they should be," Burr said in a statement. "I’m concerned that this is going to negatively impact national security and decrease the readiness of combat units at Fort Bragg that are essential in the current fight against terrorism. We are depriving them of an important asset that they have relied on for decades, and now is not the time to remove important resources from our troops."
"I am surprised and deeply disappointed with the Army's decision to acquiesce to the Air Force's strategy for how they will complete training at Fort Bragg," Tillis said in a statement. "Now, the burden is on the Fort Bragg commanders to demonstrate to Congress and the Fayetteville community that they have not jeopardized the needs of the Global Response Force to placate the reckless desires of budget cutters in the Pentagon."
The move means the majority of Air Force Reserves members in the unit will have to find jobs at other military installations and move their families to those locations.
Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers said she will continue fighting to keep C-130s at Fort Bragg, saying she plans to meet with Fort Bragg leaders and Pentagon officials.
"We have heard that they are planning busing a number of the paratroopers from Fort Bragg all the way to Charleston (S.C.) to get on aircraft there and then be flown back over Fort Bragg and dropped. Now that is absolutely ridiculous," Ellmers said.