Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—With the budget ax starting to swing at the Pentagon, Maryland’s Air National Guard is taking a big hit.
Alex DeMetrick reports the Air Force is eliminating the local guard’s cargo planes and possibly jobs as well.
Whether it’s delivering a paratrooper or a pallet of supplies, Maryland’s Air National Guard is flying a smaller twin engine cargo plane.
This spring, those planes and crews start deploying to Afghanistan. When they return, the Air Force is planning to eliminate the planes, and the heart of Maryland’s airlift capability.
“That’s a concern for us,” said Col. Scott Kelly, Maryland Air National Guard.
That’s because these planes aren’t just used in war. They also bring supplies to disaster zones. Removing them will save the Air Force money, but maybe not jobs.
“You’ve got the fliers, the pilots. You’ve got the loadmasters, maintenance, so 250 to 300, somewhere in that range of individuals, who keep this thing up and running,” said Kelly.
“The sentiment is everybody loves this mission. They love flying,” said Col. Thomas Hans, Maryland Air National Guard. “But we understand we’re here to serve the country, and if they take that mission away from us and give us another mission, we’ll make that succeed as well.”
That new mission will likely focus on cyber security and intelligence gathering.
The guard views that as a plus, but “what the impact’s going to be, we don’t know yet,” Kelly said.
While the impact of losing these planes is still down the road, what’s most in focus now is the deployment to Afghanistan.
“Let’s worry about what we need to do today for the job,” Kelly said, “as we try to figure out what’s to come personnel wise”–when the planes leave Maryland for good.
Eliminating the cargo planes must still be approved by Congress.
The planes will remain with the Maryland Air National Guard through at least September when they return from Afghanistan.