Training continues as cut looms for Fort Bragg's 440th AW - WNCN: News, Weather

Training continues as cut looms for Fort Bragg's 440th AW

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Despite a plan to inactivate the 440 Airlift Wing, the unit carries on with its training based at Pope Field on Fort Bragg.

Thursday, members of the 440th participated in a training exercise that is one of their least common – jumping onto the airfield instead of one of the dirt drop zones on Fort Bragg.

An inactivation of the 440th would mean approximately 1100 Air Force reservist and support staff jobs would no longer be based at Pope Field. It is estimated the $77.8 million impact to the Sandhills would also be lost.

So state and local lawmakers and business leaders have spoken up to protest the proposed inactivation. U.S. Representatives Renee Ellmers (NC-02), David Price (NC-04), and Mike McIntyre (NC-07) and Richard Hudson (NC-08) have written a letter of concern to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. The Fayetteville Regional Chamber, the City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County have petitioned Congress to rethink the budget proposal that would inactivate the 440th. U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has also spoken up in protest of the plan several times.

Thursday’s training was an example of the collaboration that is necessary between the 440th and Army paratroopers. Eight C-130's rolled down the airfield in an “elephant walk” before taking off one after the other.  The planes dropped static line and HALO (high altitude low opening) paratroopers onto the airfield.

"There's so much traffic at the airfield we actually have to control the traffic around the airfield during that small period of time when we will be dropping," said Lt. Col. Brian May, 95th Airlift Squadron, 440th Airlift Wing.

Just that little bit of coordination is a small example of how having the 440th based at Fort Bragg helps with training for Army paratroopers.

"The partnership is there, and it's a good thing that they're here because of the fact that we may need the aircraft to perform the training that we need for airborne operations," explained Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura with United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne).

If the 440th is inactivated other planes would travel in to help with training, but the local jobs and economic boost would be lost. Some argue so would the ease of training collaborations such as the one on Thursday.

"When it comes to C-130's, the bigger planes, the 440th has all the planes that we need when it comes to the high performance jumps that some of us need," Yoshimura said.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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