By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
St. Joseph will devote more time and energy advocating for the Air National Guard 139th Airlift Group.
St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President Natalie Hawn says the Chamber is partnering with Community Alliance to lobby on behalf of the 139th, based at Rosecrans Memorial Airport. Hawn says the advocacy will work on the local and state levels as well as the national level.
“Because we know the decision regarding the J-model airplanes is going to come from D.C., but there are also some things we can do at the state level,” Hawn says. “And really there are some things that we can do locally to bring more awareness to the 139th and make sure we’re partnering and make sure that we’re have great programs in place that we’re as a community utilizing it to the best of our ability.”
Hawn says the community cannot afford to be naïve about the 139th being passed over for an upgrade to its fleet of C-130 cargo planes. The fleet based at Rosecrans is comprised of C-130H planes. The Air Force has announced the next round of C-130J models will go to Air Guard bases in Connecticut, Montana, Minnesota, and Illinois; not to St. Joseph.
“That concerns us, because if we’re the last man standing with the old airplanes and we’re not mission ready when we need to be, then we put ourselves at risk,” Hawn says.
Hawn says Missouri is at a bit of a disadvantage politically. While Sixth Congressional District Republican Rep. Sam Graves has experience and clout, the two U.S. senators are new. Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican, is up for re-election this year as he finishes his first term. Sen. Eric Schmitt won election to the U.S. Senate in 2022 after serving as Missouri’s Attorney General. Schmitt, a Republican, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, but as a freshman and a member of the minority party, he has not built any clout.
Receiving the cargo plane upgrades, the C-130J Super Hercules, is seen as a necessary step to insure the long-term viability of the 139th in St. Joseph.
A big plus for the air base is that the 139th is home to the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, which trains crews from throughout the world on the latest military tactics for use with the C-130 and other planes.
Hawn says the 139th is the fourth largest employer in St. Joseph.
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