Posted: Oct 1, 2013 8:29 AM by Alex Backus - MTN News
Updated: Oct 1, 2013 8:29 AM
GREAT FALLS - The Montana Air National Guard is preparing for the departure of the final six F-15 Eagles, but the message from Congressional leaders and Montana Air National Guard officials is: Montana is lucky.
"We are very blessed to have a mission such as the C-130 that is coming in here that will keep us relevant in the national picture, keep the airmen in Montana employed and provide a valuable service to the citizens of Montana," said Maj. Cody Smith of the 120th Fighter Wing.
The fight has been on since 2008 to secure an enduring flying mission for Montana, and through collaboration, MT ANG secured the C-130s for the next 30 years
"We've worked really hard saying, OK, if the (F)15s have to go, that we have a very good replacement mission, and in this case, it's the C-130s," U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said.
"The community came together, worked with us, and we were able to get a meaningful mission for Montana when many other states have no flying mission that had flying missions in the past," said U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).
The replacement mission is also keeping employment numbers static. The arrival of the C-130s is giving MT ANG almost an entire carryover and more airmen an opportunity to get behind the wheel.
"Before maybe a pilot board would have two to three people selected, now you'll have six to eight people," Maj. Smith said.
The C-130s are a good match for weather-caused challenges that Montana faces and will transport Guard troops where they need to be faster and in larger numbers.
"Considering the forest fires, heavy snow, drought, all the things that Montana gets faced with, and the mere size of our state, we can do a lot with the cargo capacity the 130s offer," Sen. Tester said.
The MT ANG will be facing some infrastructure changes to accommodate the new, bigger planes. The new costs will largely be covered by the 2014 Military Construction Bill currently in Congress, which is slated to allocate $22 million dollars to the Montana Air National Guard.