The Spokesman-Review

Opinion

SUNDAY, DEC. 9, 2012

JLUS key to base’s mission

We thank everyone in the Spokane area for the support you offer the base and our airmen. We can only accomplish our mission with you. For seven decades, this patriotic community has stood shoulder to shoulder with its Air Force. We are stronger because of you.

As the installation commander of Fairchild Air Force Base, my focus is on our people, our mission of fueling freedom and a commitment to first-class support. As Airmen, we are committed to our nation and our great Air Force. Daily, Fairchild Airmen and their families enjoy absolutely phenomenal support from all of our surrounding communities.

Fairchild Airmen superbly perform air refueling and expeditionary support missions essential to the nation’s defense. We will stay on this course defending freedom.

As we look to the future, I’m heartened that we are working together to plan important growth and land use initiatives around Fairchild while avoiding what we call “encroachment” issues that might prevent Fairchild from accomplishing its mission.

If we are not careful, incompatible development near the base can adversely affect the base’s operations and its future ability to answer our nation’s call.

Because this is important to all of us in the Spokane region, years ago we established the Fairchild Air Force Base Encroachment Management Team. Shortly after assuming command in August, I directed my team to increase discussions with the local governments in the Spokane area to present the Air Force’s interests to maintain our operational capabilities while supporting community development.

Our team director has been involved with these matters for the last several years.

It is important, for example, to maintain the airspace surrounding the base to ensure every pilot under my command can practice the skills necessary to remain proficient in his or her ability to fly the KC-135 Stratotanker. Our aircrews must train in all phases of flight: at various altitudes, weather conditions and speeds. The only way for them to prepare for missions abroad is to train at home the way they will fly on actual missions in support of our nation.

Our training must include flight approaches to Fairchild’s runway in all weather conditions. In clear weather, our pilots fly the visual traffic pattern, at lower altitudes, relatively close to the runway. In adverse conditions, instrument training is critical. This technique mandates that aircrews fly a long straight-in approach through clouds on long radar patterns up to 12 miles from Fairchild.

Fairchild aircraft are already restricted to the northwest side of our runway due to its proximity to Spokane International Airport. If more of our current airspace becomes unavailable, it will further impact our ability to train.

To better manage development, experts in the region began a collaborative planning process with Fairchild in 2006 called the Joint Land Use Study. The experts are made up of local community, tribal and Air Force leaders and planners. The goal is to protect the viability of current and future missions at Fairchild, while accommodating growth, sustaining the economic health of the region, and protecting public health and safety.

One of the primary ways JLUS meets this goal is to encourage cooperative land use and resource planning between Fairchild and surrounding communities to ensure future growth is compatible with Fairchild’s mission. It also provides a set of tools which localities can select and use to implement the recommendations developed during the process.

The Fairchild JLUS was completed in 2009. In 2011, the JLUS Implementation Steering Committee was formed to take the recommendations of the report and write ordinances for adoption into law. Because JLUS is a continual process, additional recommendations were made in March 2012. Our four surrounding communities have made progress with their JLUS adoption efforts and will hopefully complete the implementation actions by year’s end.

Recognizing that decisions properly lie with the local communities, I support the JLUS Implementation Steering Committee’s recommendations and I ask each community to adopt JLUS. Adopting these comprehensive planning recommendations will help ensure the viability of Fairchild’s mission and encourage local economic growth, allowing the military and the community to prosper together.

Col. Brian Newberry is the 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander


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