A state senator from western North Carolina visited Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Wednesday and walked away with a renewed commitment to continue supporting the needs of the military in the legislature.
Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, the son of an Air Force sergeant, said he understands the importance of advocating the needs of military installations in North Carolina, including Seymour Johnson AFB.
"We like to think of ourselves as a very military-friendly state," Davis said. "I think we've made great strides in ensuring that military leaders in the state and Washington understand that we are military friendly, and we'll do everything that we can to maintain the military presence that we have here."
During his visit, which included stops at several key base facilities, Davis learned that the greatest need is to maintain adequate air space for Air Force pilots.
"It's reaffirmed the sense that I had of how important it is to preserve air space for training purposes and to limit the obstacles that sprout up, with wind farms and things like that, and to just preserve the rural nature of the Eastern seaboard so that we don't impinge unnecessarily on the training space," Davis said.
"It renewed my intent to guard that airspace as best I can."
Davis was escorted by base leaders, including 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Christopher Sage.
His tour, which lasted several hours, began with a 4th Fighter Wing mission briefing and a stop inside the Razor Talon War Room.
Davis was able to run through an F-15E Strike Eagle flight simulator and was taken to the 916th Air Refueling Wing where he saw a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flightline. He also performed a refueling operation on a KC-135 simulator.
Part of his visit included a briefing on the KC-46A Pegasus tankers, planned to arrive at the base by 2020. In 2017, Seymour Johnson was selected as the nation's first Air Force reserve site to house the military's fleet of new KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling planes.
"They're very excited about bringing in the KC-46, and it seems to me that that helps ensure the continuation of a presence at Seymour Johnson, which is very important in North Carolina," Davis said.
The tour ended with a stop by the Goldsboro Multisports Complex on the perimeter of the base, near Oak Forest Road.
Davis' visit was coordinated by Jay "Johnny" Bravo, legislative assistant to the senator. Bravo was previously stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB and currently serves in the Air Force Reserves.
"He's always interested in military affairs and how to support the military," Bravo said. "(This is) to get him to feel it and touch it and see it."
Bravo said Davis is also pleased with local efforts to improve area schools, an important quality of life issue for military families.
"We're happy that the local government's taking care of schools, trying to improve schools and support the military families," Bravo said. "That's near and dear to our hearts."
The visit Wednesday was Davis' first time aboard Seymour Johnson AFB, an experience he said brought back good memories.
"I'm an Air Force brat," Davis said. "My dad was career Air Force, and so we were stationed at Langley Air Force Base for four different times.
"I grew up around the military and I have a great appreciation for the patriots, so I wanted to come out here and find out more about what we can do.
"It just sort of reaffirmed my belief in the military culture that I grew up in, and that's a good thing."