More airmen on the way
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 4, 2007 2:17 AM
By next summer, members of the 4th Fighter Wing will no longer be the sole active-duty airmen living and working on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Leadership from the 916th Air Refueling Wing is preparing for the arrival of the more than 300 active-duty airmen who will make up the 911th Air Refueling Squadron, a group Wing Commander Col. Fritz Linsenmeyer said will be activated upon recommendation from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
"The mobility forces have been doing this association for a long time, but it has normally been where the Reserve unit associates with the active-duty unit," he said. "The active-duty hones the iron -- or the airplanes -- and the Reserves come in and add additional manpower."
But the 916th, a Reserve wing, already has the airplanes -- KC-135R Stratotankers.
Linsenmeyer said it will take 260 full-time and 104 part-time positions to stand up the squadron.
Flight crews, medical and life support personnel, maintainers and others from bases across the country will man them.
Lt. Col. Bill Uptmor, currently stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, will be named commander of the unit at an activation ceremony in April.
But the wing will be adding more than just a workforce.
Eight Stratotankers from Beale Air Force Base are expected to arrive after the first of the year, too.
And for Linsenmeyer, more planes mean more flying.
The 916th currently flies four sorties a day, two in the morning and two in the evening.
But with more aircraft and additional crews, that number is expected to double.
New facilities will be needed, also -- a hangar, operations and maintenance buildings and a flight simulator.
In September, it was announced that Goldsboro firm Daniels and Daniels had been awarded a $23 million contract to design and construct them.
"I think that was huge for this community," Linsenmeyer said. "It's going to be a lot of work for them, but having that contract stay local is big for the city and for the base."
The majority of the airmen are expected to arrive by the end of next summer.
Linsenmeyer said relocation of active-duty personnel typically occurs at the end of the school year to make the move easier on families.
But he admits that "growing pains" are to be expected, that it might take some time for them to assimilate into the community.
"You sometimes have some more challenges with the active-duty because they are unfamiliar with the region or because they are away from home,"
Linsenmeyer said. "But people join local Reserve units because they want to be here."
So knowing that, he hopes members of Team Seymour and residents of the communities that surround the base make them feel at home.
And if reputation is any indication of what is to come, he knows they will.
"I know that the Military Affairs Commission and the citizens of Goldsboro and Wayne County are great supporters," he said. "I think it's going to be another win-win for the community and for the base."
Linsenmeyer said after April's activation ceremony, the squadron will have close to a year to become operational.
And he is confident that the 911th, a squadron that existed at Seymour Johnson decades ago, will do just that.
"It was here in the KC-10 days. The 911th ARS was one of the active-duty squadrons," he said. "They stood that flag down and now they are going to stand the flag back up here in April. I'm confident that we have a good plan. It should be ready, set, go."
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