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Congressmen say they’re committed to bringing new equipment and expanding the mission of the 910th Airlift Wing

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Vienna, May 6, 2016 | comments
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, along with U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson, said they are committed to bringing new equipment and expanding the mission of the 910th Airlift Wing.
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Youngstown Vindicator
By David Skolnick
Published May 6, 2016

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, along with U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson, said they are committed to bringing new equipment and expanding the mission of the 910th Airlift Wing.

The unit at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna is the military’s only large-area fixed-wing aerial spray unit.

Portman, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, said the unit is not being utilized to its fullest potential.

Portman wrote a letter Thursday to Deborah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force, asking why the 910th isn’t being used to spray to stop the spread of the Zika virus. Zika, spread largely through the bite of infected mosquitoes, usually has only minor symptoms, but if a pregnant woman gets it, Zika can cause serious birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

In the letter, Portman wrote he was concerned about “the lack of a comprehensive federal strategy to protect the public against the Zika virus and other rapidly spreading infectious diseases,” and the 910th should be used to control the spread.

Portman added: “Emerging infectious diseases constitute a clear and persistent threat to the health and well-being of U.S. citizens. The rapid pace at which global disease outbreaks have occurred in recent years demonstrates the critical need for the federal government to have a whole of government approach to stop infectious disease.”

Portman and the two House members spoke Thursday at the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission’s annual meeting at the base. The commission was created in 2015 to highlight the military value of the station and other installations in eastern Ohio, and the significant roles they play in national defense and the local economy. The station is the fourth-largest employer in the area.

“In Washington, we all have our disagreements, but this base and its impact is not one of them,” said Ryan, of Howland, D-13th.

Johnson, of Marietta, R-6th, added: “It’s a great facility and a great mission and the folks here do it so well. ...We advocate and fight for [the station] with everything we’ve got.”

The three congressmen helped get $9.4 million in an appropriations bill late last year for a new indoor firing range facility at the air station.

Portman said he and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, are urging the Air Force to replace the eight C-130H aircraft at the center with new C-130Js.

The station had 12 C-130Hs until four were moved to other military bases in 2013.

A new C-130J costs $67 million, said Master Sgt. Bob Barko Jr., the 910th’s superintendent of public affairs.

The existing C-130Hs at the base are from 1989 and 1990, and most of the aircraft’s parts are no longer made, he said. That’s resulted in the station’s machine shop making those replacement parts, he said.

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