Local News

Budget cuts could take 'air' out of airborne at Fort Bragg

Posted March 5, 2014 4:49 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2014 6:40 p.m. EST

— The C130 Hercules is the backbone of airborne operations provided by the 440th Airlift Wing for paratroopers stationed at Fort Bragg, but the planes could soon leave the Army post because of federal budget cuts.

The latest Air Force budget proposal would deactivate the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg's Pope Army Airfield, eliminating about 1,100 full- and part-time jobs.

"The annual economic impact of the 440th Airlift Wing on the local surrounding communities (is) estimated to be about $77 million," said Brig. Gen. Jim Scanlan, commander of the 440th.

The Air Force Reserve unit moved to Fort Bragg from Wisconsin in 2007, and Scanlan says the C130 has unique capabilities that make it perfect to marry up with 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers.

"It can go into a dirt strip in remote regions of Africa, Afghanistan. It also has air-drop capabilities, which allows us to insert paratrooper equipment into areas that are otherwise inaccessible," he said.

Being based at Pope gives soldiers and airmen a chance to interact and train every day, which is important in maintaining combat readiness, he said.

"We also provide ground training opportunities for our paratroopers," he said. "They'll come out and do familiarization on our aircraft before they fly. They'll also practice loading equipment on our aircraft."

Scanlan said he's not getting into a political fight over keeping the 440th at Fort Bragg, saying he will serve wherever the Air Force sends him.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that she plans to lobby to keep the 440th active at Pope Army Airfield, calling the Air Force's proposal "unacceptable."