Wicker Invites Air Force Leadership to Key Field in Meridian

Senator Stresses Importance of Securing Bridge Mission

July 22, 2008

WASHINGTON – During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., continued his efforts to secure a bridge mission for the Air National Guard in Meridian by inviting three senior Air Force officials to visit Meridian’s Key Field.  Wicker said ensuring a bridge mission for Meridian was important for both the region and the country. 

“I am concerned about a potential gap of three to five years that would exist between the tankers leaving Key Field and the arrival of a follow-on flying mission,” Wicker said during the hearing.  “This would be devastating to the facility and the community of Meridian, and I don’t think it would be in our national interest.” 

Wicker’s invitation came during a nomination hearing for Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force nominee; General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff nominee; and General Duncan McNabb, nominated to be commander of the U.S. Transportation Command.

During the BRAC process in 2005, the 186th Air Refueling Wing was reassigned to another base.  Meridian is scheduled to receive an Air Force Warfighting Headquarters and likely a Joint Cargo Aircraft mission.  However, there is concern about a potential gap between the tankers leaving Meridian and the arrival of a follow-on flying mission. 

“Obtaining a bridge mission is critically important to the economy of Meridian,” Wicker added.  “It is also important to ensuring the pilots, flight crews and maintenance personnel are able to stay in Meridian without losing training opportunities or impacting their high level of proficiency.” 

Senator Wicker is a member of the Armed Services Committee, Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee.