Lawmaker fears end for Fresno's 144th Fighter Wing

FRESNO, Calif.

The pentagon has just announced plans to restructure the Air Force, by eliminating six-thousand Air National guardsmen. But, they're not saying where exactly those losses will come from.

Assemblyman Henry T. Perea tells Action News he opposes any cuts that would eliminate Fresno's 144th Fighter Wing.

During a training exercise last June, our cameras captured the men and women of the 144th Fighter Wing in action. They provide air defense protection from the Mexican border all the way up to Oregon.

Assembly member Henry T. Perea fears what could happen if the Pentagon decides to eliminate the base, and the hundreds of jobs that go along with it.

Henry T. Perea said, "From our base in Fresno, we can mobilize up to 6 jets, plus an additional 12 supporting jets within a matter of 6 hours. If we have to rely on bases from other states, it could take up to 72 hours to get the same level of protection."

Perea is reacting to this week's announcement regarding a re-structuring of the Air Force.

In a letter sent to the Secretary of Defense, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer back up his concerns, especially since the Fresno base is slated to get a fleet of F-15's next year. But, Action News reviewed the budget, and nowhere does it say the 144th Fighter Wing is on the chopping block. Instead, the feds are proposing to take away one fighter jet.

Fresno city councilmember Larry Westerlund, who fought to get the F-15's here, says the suggestion to eliminate the base comes from bureau chiefs in other states and that there's little to no-chance it will ever go through.

Larry Westerlund said, "Their proposal is that they would do west coast coverage of Southern California from Montana, which makes about much sense as lips on a frog. It just doesn't make any sense at all."

Still, he and Perea aren't taking any chances. They've already talked with other local, state, and federal leaders, to ensure they know the 144th Fighter Wing is more than just a line item in the budget.

"We need to show them it's much more than that," said Henry T. Perea. "That it's people, its jobs and it's economy."

A general with the National Guard released a statement saying, this is not a time to cut the National Guard, but to grow it.

Assemblyman Perea says Riverside's base could also be eliminated. On Monday, he will unveil a resolution on the Assembly floor to officially declare his opposition.

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