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Air National Guard wing may land at Fairchild

A proposal to station a new Air National Guard wing of narcotics-fighting planes at Fairchild Air Force base is gaining traction with military leaders and Washington’s congressional delegation.

The proposal to headquarter RC-26B administration and support services with the 141st Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild, as well as move an additional eight of the planes to the base, could significantly expand Washington Air National Guard operations there and potentially add jobs.

The planes provide surveillance and reconnaissance for drug enforcement missions and also can be used for homeland security and emergency services. They were used in rescue and recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

One resides at Fairchild, with others scattered at 10 other locations across the country.

The idea to base their scheduling and administrative support at Fairchild is being championed by much of Washington’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Cathy McMorris and Norm Dicks, who all wrote to National Guard Bureau Chief Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum supporting the wing location.

The new wing of eight planes being proposed for Fairchild would be transferred from the U.S. Army to the Air National Guard, said McMorris press secretary Jill Strait.

“The Air National Guard is looking at the potential expansion of the RC-26B mission, and in so doing is looking at locations where the RC-26B mission is currently performed and where the capacity exists to host expanded mission capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Nancy E. Reid, spokeswoman for the 141st Air Refueling Wing.

“The delegation believes that Fairchild is the perfect place for both of these expansion elements,” Strait said.

There is room for additional planes on the base because several Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers were moved elsewhere during the recent Base Realignment and Closure process.

The proposal developed during discussions among Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, who heads up Washington’s Air and Army National Guard, Blum and Washington’s congressional delegation.