The Air Force Reserve has temporarily halted plans to close down a squadron at Keesler Air Force Base that would have meant the loss of nearly 500 jobs. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, some of those positions have already moved but others will stay for now.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 called for the transfer of 10 C-130J airplanes out of Keesler. That meant the closing of the 815th Squadron and the loss of some maintenance positions, a total of about 470 reserve and full-time jobs.
But earlier this year, the Air Force Reserve Command delayed moving the planes. Colonel Frank Amodeo, commander of Keesler’s 403rd Wing, says it probably won’t be clear when - or if - the planes are moving until after the 2015 defense authorization act passes later this year.
Still, Amodeo says because the wing has been on a path to shutting down the squadron, many jobs and people have already moved in this past year. Virtually all of the active-duty positions and the majority of the full-time reserve positions have already been transferred because the budget to pay for them runs out Dec. 6.
If the airplanes ultimately remain at Keesler, it’s possible the positions could return.
Rich Moss is a member of the Biloxi Bay Chamber and a former commander of the reserve unit. He says it’s good news the planes and squadron are staying for now.
"I think it's a great deal for the Air Force and for this community because of the great economic impact that these airplanes the people associated with them have here," Moss says.
Keesler estimates it has an annual economic impact of nearly $600 million in 2013. That includes a combined payroll of $347.5 million last year for 7,700 military and student personnel and 3,500 civilian employees.
The Hurricane Hunters are also part of the 403rd Reserve Wing at Keesler, but its missions are not affected by the changes with this squadron.