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Lawmakers seek support for Air Guard expansion

The Yellowhammer State plays an ever-increasing role in the United States military’s readiness and defense.

Continuing this trend, the Alabama House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee announced Tuesday it is urging the state’s senators and congressional delegation to fund expanding the 117th Air Refueling Wing’s parking ramp in Birmingham.

House Resolution 73, which calls for the push, is sponsored by State Reps. Jerry Starnes (R-Prattville), Kenneth Paschal (R-Pelham), and Chad Robertson (R-Heflin).

Committee Chair Ed Oliver said the expansion is crucial to the military and the state.

“The Alabama Air National Guard’s 117th Air Refueling Wing houses the KC-135 Stratotanker in Birmingham, and it has provided the major refueling services for the U.S. Air Force for more than 60 years,” said Oliver (R-Dadeville). “The wing’s parking ramp at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base is considered undersized under current regulations and, unless expansion occurs, Alabama could lose this important military and economic asset when new tankers come online.”

The legislators are hoping to secure $33 million for the project through the National Defense Authorization Act. If the funding is attained, the expansion would help to service and accommodate KC-46 tankers.

The Air Refueling Wing has a major economic impact in Birmingham, generating $100 million for the area, the lawmakers said.

The resolution will be sent to both of Alabama’s U.S. senators and each member of Alabama’s congressional delegation. The special assistant to the adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard will be presented with a copy at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

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