Citizens of Mansfield and the surrounding areas are probably familiar with the “179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield.” Recently, I had the privilege of sharing its story at the Statehouse and honoring its service by sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 4.

HCR4 promotes the preservation of the 179th by urging Congress to continue funding a mission at the 179th. The Secretary of the Air Force recently proposed cancelling the C-27J - the very aircraft the 179th operates. It is my goal to shine a light on this issue, and the critical importance of the 179th to our national defense, disaster readiness, and economy.

Since being created in 1948, the 179th has flown a wide range of aircraft, including jets and military bombers. In 1976, the unit changed gears, converting from fighter missions to transport missions, flying C-130s and currently, the new C-27J aircraft.

Over the years, the 179th has undertaken a broad range of missions that have played an important role in American history. The 179th served with distinction in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. They also provided humanitarian aid in places like Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti. The Airlift Wing responded to domestic emergencies as well, offering disaster relief to the victims of hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy.

Recently, the 179th Airlift Wing evolved once more by becoming a Joint Air-Army base. Under this new capacity, its mission is to support multiple Ohio Army National Guard engineer detachments, as well as the 200th Red Horse Detachment.

The 179th and the National Guard perform approximately 34 percent of the Air Force’s capabilities while using less than 10 percent of the Air Force’s budget. This is a shining example of the efficient use of resources and of accountability to the taxpayers. I am certain that the people affected by the natural disasters mentioned earlier appreciated all that the 179th did to help them.

Despite the success of its humanitarian missions and its cost-effectiveness, the Secretary of the Air Force recently called for the C-27J aircraft to be stripped from the 179th in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. This would be devastating for Richland County and for all of North Central Ohio. Stripping the C-27J would result in the closing of the base and the loss of roughly 800 jobs. With an annual payroll that surpasses $34 million and an economic impact of about $69 million, closing this base would be harmful both to military families and area businesses and residents at a time when job creation and the economy remains our number-one focus.

I was happy to see House Concurrent Resolution 4 passed unanimously in the Ohio House of Representatives. Clearly, the members of the Ohio House understand the significance of the 179th, and I am confident that it will gain the same support in the Senate.

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