Altus, Vance AFBs to close?

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Friday the 13th is going to be a very unlucky day for some number of cities near US military bases. That's the day that the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) will announce its recommendations. Spook 86 has published the draft list he received back in January, emphasizing that the list is only a draft. The draft list has 49 bases slated for closure and three for realignment. One of the distinguishing aims of this round of realignment is to put common functions of different services at the same location, rather than continue to have bases that are exclusive to a single service.

Two of Oklahoma's three Air Force bases were on the draft list for closure: Altus AFB, near the city of the same name, and Vance AFB, near Enid. The closing of either would hurt the surrounding community, but Enid, twice as big as Altus, and the largest city in northwestern Oklahoma, is better positioned to weather the blow.

Altus AFB trains 3000 students a year as pilots, boom operators, and loadmasters for C-5 and C-17 cargo aircraft and KC-135 tankers. With flat terrain and over 300 days of good flying weather a year, it's a great place to train pilots.

I visited Altus many times during my years with Burtek and FlightSafety, working on C-141 and KC-135 simulators, and it was always awe-inspiring, as I approached the town on US 62, to see the massive C-5s float across the sky, like flying whales. They used to park one of them, with the nose open, on the apron facing one of the base's streets, so that as you drove down the street, you looked straight into the maw of the massive aircraft.

The economy of the City of Altus, which has a population just over 20,000, is very dependent on the air base. In addition to military personnel, many civilian contractors work there, like the employees of FlightSafety Services Corporation who maintain and operate the flight simulators for the C-5 and KC-135. Altus has a couple of other major employers, like Bar-S Foods and Luscombe Aircraft Corporation, but they don't employ anywhere near the numbers of people that the base does. Mike Andrews, a columnist for the Altus Times wrote:

The numbers are stark. A town of just over 20,000 has more than 4,000 people employed on base. And that's not including subcontractors or the people who make a living selling cars and houses to people who work on base. Saying that losing the base would be bad for Altus is much like saying the Dust Bowl was bad for Oklahoma.

Altus is not a very exciting place, and as we used to say, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there." They have done a lot to spruce up their downtown in recent years, thanks to their award-winning Main Street program. The people there are friendly and welcoming, as I found during some longer stays back in 1987, when I visited several different churches. A surprising number of Air Force folks like it well enough to stick around, even after retirement. One such retiree opened a popular Italian restaurant, Luigi's, in the town of Blair, eight miles to the north. Even if the base closes, Altus would still serve a purpose as the biggest place for over 60 miles in any direction, but I imagine that at least one of the two nicer hotels would close, along with many restaurants and small service businesses.

The BRAC process is a good one. Decisions about the location of bases should be based on military advantage and cost efficiency, not on who sits on the House Armed Services committee. The U.S. military doesn't exist for the purpose of keeping small towns alive. Still, it's sad to see those small towns suffer, and we'll be rooting for and praying for Altus this Friday the 13th.

(Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for the link to Spook 86. She has links to more articles on the subject.)


W. said:

I doubt many people outside the military even know that most of those military bases exist. The first thing I thought when I saw the BRAC list was: "Jeez Louise, do we really need all those bases? Can't a couple of strategically located bases in each state pretty much do the job?"

Corporate America has trimmed the fat when needed without a loss in productivity. It's time to treat the military in the same way instead of it constantly sucking on the government teat.

From CNN: list of facilities to be realigned.


# Armed Forces Reserve Center Broken Arrow

# Armed Forces Reserve Center Muskogee

# Army National Guard Reserve Center Tishomingo

# Krowse U.S. Army Reserve Center, Oklahoma City

# Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center, Tulsa

# Oklahoma City (95th)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 11, 2005 12:46 PM.

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