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Task Force Ready To Defend Base

Spokane business and government leaders aren’t relaxing even though Fairchild was among bases rated highest by Air Force evaluators.

Leaders of a special “Keep Fairchild Flying” task force said Tuesday some old or incorrect information still could cause the West Plains base to be considered for closure.

“It’s a good rating. We just want to put a little spit shine on it,” said Irv Reed, Spokane’s Planning and Engineering Services director and a member of the group.

The Air Force placed Fairchild among 10 large aircraft and missile bases in the country, its top tier for such facilities.

That rating also places it ahead of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, both of which would be scaled back under the Pentagon’s plans.

But a special federal commission that is reviewing the Pentagon’s list must compare bases the military wants to close with those it wants to keep open. To do that, it will look at the data each base compiled.

Task force leaders say the Fairchild data have some items “that are not exactly right.” It seems to downplay the importance of the Survival School, which trains Air Force, Navy and Marine air crews, and rates the base as a poor place for bomber operations.

Until it became the nation’s largest aerial refueling tanker station last July, Fairchild was a bomber base for 47 years.

“One piece of erroneous information and that’s what can get you on the list,” said Arnold Weinman, former Fairchild wing commander and a member of the task force.

The task force has raised more than $123,000 to prepare arguments against closing Fairchild, should the base be one of those chosen for comparison. The comparison list will be released in mid-May.

John Allen, a retired Air Force general who serves as the task force’s consultant, warned that the federal commission may consider closing far more bases than the Pentagon wants.


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