Vice President Joe Biden Arrives in Moon Township
Supporters of the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township await Vice President Joe Biden's arrival.
Biden appeared at a campaign stop earlier in the day at Youngstown, Ohio's M-7 Technologies factory, where he talked growth in the manufacturing industry and railed against Republican opponent Mitt Romney, according to the Toledo Blade.
His motorcade traveled east from the Mahoning Valley to Moon Township's 911th Airlift Wing, where Air Force Two awaited him shortly after 4 p.m.
Also waiting for him were supporters of the Moon-based wing, which has been pegged for closure as a part of a Pentagon plan to cut the Air Force's 2013 budget by $8.7 billion.
Under the closure plan, each of the base's more than 1,100 military and 280 civilian positions will be eliminated in fiscal year 2013. The wing was targeted for closure because of the age of its eight C-130 tactical aircraft, which were manufactured in 1967.
A dozen supporters, many of them reservists and family members, stood near the base's entrance off Defense Avenue, hoping to catch the vice president's attention.
"If [the Obama administration] are going to continue to rely on the reserve base and use it to park here, then we want them to realize its significance," said 911th reservist David Kraft, of Moon Township. "We want to show them what we can do. But we want them to realize how cost-effective [the 911th is] is and to show them the significance of closing it."
Local officials have touted the cost-savings associated with the 911th and the neighboring 171st Air National Guard Refueling Wing: Both bases share runways with Pittsburgh International, which the Allegheny County Airport Authority maintains.
The 911th pays $20,000 a year for access to Pittsburgh International's four runways. Declines in the number of commercial flights servicing the airport have lessened air traffic, allowing for more check rides and touch-and-go flights for military aircraft assigned to the bases.
Kraft said many 911th reservists were dismayed after hearing the Air Force's announcement to close the base. No date has been set for the closure.
"At first it did hurt morale," he said. "But now I think we're excited to show people what the 911th can do and to make sure people take a fair look at it."
Supporters waived signs as Biden's motorcade's approached the base's gates. Some in the group said they were unsure if the vice president saw the protest.
Biden appeared at the Pittsburgh St. Patrick's Day parade in March, when he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he had spoken with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, about the 911th's closure, calling it a "positive conversation."
Communities in the Pittsburgh airport corridor could loose as much as $114 million annually in income as a result of the 911th's closure, according to officials with Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We need to get more businesses in the area out here supporting us," said 911th reservist Ed Tarquinio, of Moon Township, just before Biden's motorcade arrived. "We do have some who are supporting us. But it's $114 million leaving the area. We need to emphasize that."
For more information on efforts to save the 911th, visit the Military Affairs Coalition of Western Pennsylvania's website. Click here to sign a petition for the base.
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