Local residents today may notice new signs dotting yards and roadways in Moon Township.
"You always hear people say, 'Support our troops,'" said Brian Schill, public relations director for the Military Affairs Coalition of Western Pennsylvania. "Well, these signs say support your troops. And that 'your' is in bold (lettering)."
Schill said the coalition hopes Moon-area residents, business owners and public officials will rally behind the township-based 911th Airlift Wing and Air National Guard 171st Refueling Wing. The group will place more than 100 signs throughout the township today, protesting the U.S. Air Force's plan to shutter the 911th and reduce the aircraft fleet of the 171st.
The Air Force announced plans in February to close the 911th in the coming months and all of its C-130 aircraft as part of a $4.7-billion military restructuring plan. The 171st is also slated for a realignment under the initiative, losing as many as four of its KC-135 refueling tankers.
"The real gist of the coalition is that we really want to make sure that the Air Force is making an informed decision in closing the 911th," Schillsaid. "We're not trying to save the 911th at all costs. We're just saying, 'Look at the data and see if this makes sense.'"
Military and civilian personnel on the base today expect to receive their new assignments from the Air Force. Schill said he was hopeful that the Pentagon would delay closing the wing and reexamine its data.
"But if not, it's not over till it's over," Schillsaid. "We'll continue to do what we're doing until the door closes. As a minimum, we'd like this to go before Congress and let it go through the (base realignment and closure) system again."
The 911th has been targeted for closure by the Air Force twice before, in 1995 and 2005. Local and congressional officials have argued that the Air Force is not authorized to close the 911th because of a regulation that requires congressional approval to shutter a base employing more than 300 civilian personnel.
Much of the coalition's efforts have focused on working alongside the state's congressional delegation to prevent the closure. Pennsylvania lawmakers in recent weeks have met with military leaders in Washington, DC, to the decision to close the base.
"Fortunately, we've not had to lobby to get our congressional representatives involved," said Manager Jeanne Creese, who represents the township in the coalition. "They immediately recognized the issue."
Creese said the closure of the 911th could have a direct impact on the township's economy.
"It's a part of the fabric of our community," she said of the 911th. "It's a concern to our hotels, our restaurants, our shops. The people who are stationed on that base, many of them choose to live in our community."
"I always say, 'They're your hometown Air Force,'" said Schillof the 911th and the 171st bases. "A lot of people say support your troops, and this is a time to do it."
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