03/01/05 — Lt. Gov. Perdue tours Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

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Lt. Gov. Perdue tours Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 1, 2005 1:48 PM

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue toured Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on Monday and met with Col. Mike Holmes, commander of the 4th Fighter Wing. She said she is looking for ways to show North Carolina's support for its military bases.

Gov. Mike Easley asked Ms. Perdue to coordinate military affairs for the state in anticipation of the Department of Defense's Base Re-Alignment and Closure process, or BRAC.

It was "a really productive visit," Ms. Perdue said after the tour. She said she was impressed with the base and community's willingness to work together to support military families. "This community embraces the family," she said.

There are still some issues Ms. Perdue says she would like to see cleared up. One is an "Educational Blueprint" for military transfers across states. Currently, if a military family is transferred from a different state, children who require Exceptional Children's programs may have to be re-evaluated to meet certain eligibility requirements in this state.

Ms. Perdue is going to ask the state Board of Education to consider joining the Military Child Education coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing transition issues for military children.

Military spouses who are teachers from out-of-state are issued a temporary license before they meet certification guidelines in North Carolina, as are others who move into the state. Ms. Perdue said she would like to see more reciprocity between states.

In addition to professional certifications, Ms. Perdue is also concerned about vocational certification for military spouses. Currently, those who have certifications for vocations such as plumbing and electrical work must re-apply for licenses when transferred to a new state.

Overall, North Carolina has taken great strides to support its military families, Ms. Perdue said, citing the Military Tuition Benefit passed last year. With this benefit, military members stationed in North Carolina, and their dependents, can attend North Carolina's state colleges at in-state tuition rates.

Ms. Perdue said she is pleased with the effort made by Wayne County to support Seymour Johnson.

Wayne began encroachment planning -- steps to prevent development near the base -- before other military communities, she said. The planning is done voluntarily, she said, and Realtors and homeowners support it.

Ms. Perdue said Wayne 's school board and community leaders "understand the value of the base."

As development takes place in the coastal area of North Carolina, Ms. Perdue said, residents must be educated on military issues.

Last month, Ms. Perdue attended a meeting in Washington with state representatives and Phil Grone, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment. Grone is the key decision maker from the Pentagon regarding the BRAC Commission. Ms. Perdue said she left that meeting "feeling good about North Carolina," adding that she was impressed by Grone's awareness of North Carolina's committment to the military and military families.

Ms. Perdue said that, throughout the BRAC process, she has emphasized that North Carolina's military bases participate in joint training -- sharing resources -- and that the state has the largest available airspace on the East Coast.

Ms. Perdue said that the state needs to make an investment for the next 25 to 50 years.

"We need to do a better job selling our state," Ms. Perdue said. She added that North Carolina needs to show its support for the military at all times, not just during BRAC rounds.

In 1995, a BRAC round threatened to close the Naval Air Depot at Cherry Point. Ms. Perdue said that after the state fought to keep it open, support in the community disappeared.

Ms. Perdue would prefer not to see that happen. "We should never go underground again."