U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) today joined Governor Phil Bredesen and other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation in applauding the Department of Defense’s announcement that the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 118th Airlift Wing has been selected for a new flying mission, preserving the South’s first Air Guard unit.
Alexander and Corker said this foreign military sales training mission would ensure that the 118th continues its operation of C-130 aircraft at Berry Field and would keep approximately 700 jobs in the Nashville area, including the state’s only Aero Medical Unit. The 118th new mission will focus on training foreign military units on the maintenance and handling of C-130 aircraft.
“The 118th has a proud history in the Air National Guard, and this decision is the right way to honor and continue its flying legacy,” Alexander said. “This would not have happened without the leadership of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Governor Bredesen, Senator Corker and the rest of the congressional delegation. Today’s announcement means the 118th will keep its aircraft, which are an important state asset for emergencies, and the community will keep 700 jobs.”
“This is a great day for the 118th, for Nashville, and for the entire state of Tennessee,” said Corker. “This announcement represents a milestone for the 118th, which has proven itself time and time again by protecting the citizens of our state and country. Through this new mission, the 118th will continue to serve a vital role in our national security for years to come, and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee I will continue working to ensure that this unit has all the necessary resources to succeed.”
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended the removal of the eight C-130 aircraft operated by the 118th at Berry Field with most of the unit’s civilian and military jobs moving to other states.
The Tennessee congressional delegation had joined Bredesen in strongly opposing the commission’s recommendation because of the 118th’s many contributions to homeland security and emergency response across Tennessee, and they worked to secure this new assignment:
In September 2005, Alexander sent a letter with then-Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) to the President requesting that a follow-on flying mission be assigned to the 118th after the BRAC decision to remove the 118th’s C-130 aircraft.
In October 2005, Alexander wrote General Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, requesting that a follow-on flying mission be assigned to the 118th.
In January 2006, Alexander wrote the Secretary of Defense requesting that a follow on flying mission be assigned to the 118th.
In December 2006, Alexander met with Dr. Gates, then Nominee for Secretary of Defense, to discuss 118th and a follow on flying mission during his Senate confirmation process.
As a new member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Corker helped move the process to its conclusion, which included meetings with General Moseley, Lieutenant General Craig McKinley, Director of the Air National Guard, and Major General Gus Hargett, Tennessee Adjutant General. Corker also wrote a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne.
The 118th, founded in 1921 and the third oldest Air Guard unit in the nation, will become a C-130 transport aircraft Formal Training Unit, which will conduct training of airmen. In peacetime the 118th will train international airmen while the 118th will also maintain its wartime mission of training additional U.S. airmen as needed.
This new mission will utilize the professional pilots and air crews already assigned to the 118th. Once the new mission is operational, the 118th could train as many as 150 international military students annually with the first class scheduled to graduate in mid-2008.
Alexander and Corker said the new mission for the 118th will maintain the C-130 aircraft as an asset to Tennessee in case of disaster or emergency.