BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The "Flying Jennies" parked on Keesler's runway will continue to fly in and out of Biloxi, at least for now. This week, the Air Force Reserve Command delayed the deactivation of the 815th Airlift Squadron. That means the 10 C130 J's that were scheduled to be moved to another air force base will also stay put.
"The initial deactivation order we had was for the 15 of June," 403rd Maintenance Group Cmdr. Michael Manion said. "Then it was pushed back to September 30 this year, and now it's been rescinded."
As long as the planes remain at Keesler, so will the 501 employees with the 815th Air Squadron and the more than 100 employees with the 345th Associate Squadron. The 815th is best known for air dropping supplies and paratroopers but can also be used to provide airlift, employment operations or aero medical evacuations.
"The men and women will continue to do the job the best they can, and we will take care of them the best we can and take care of their families and execute the mission in a safe way," said Manion.
The latest delay is welcome news to Mississippi lawmakers. U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker along with U.S. Rep. Stephen Palazzo have been fighting the transfer of the planes and the deactivation of the squadrons since the idea was first brought up in 2012 as a way to tighten the military's budget.
"The Air Force has yet to provide a satisfactory cost analysis or justification for again targeting this squadron for deactivation," Cochran said.
"The Air Force has made the prudent decision to allow Keesler Air Force Base the ability to hire and replace personnel," said Wicker.
"It remains my sincere hope that the Air Force will see the error of their ways and commit to keeping the 815th and all their personnel at Keesler," Palazzo said.
For now, the "Flying Jennies," and those who maintain and fly them, will continue with business as usual.