Commander says unknowns loom over decision to keep aircraft at Keesler

Commander says unknowns loom over decision to keep aircraft at Keesler

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Following the Secretary of the Air Force's announcement last week in favor of keeping ten C-130 J's at Keesler Air Force base, WLOX News spoke with base leaders to talk about the future of the 815th squadron.

On Monday, a crew chief refills a C-130J with liquid oxygen. His work provides oxygen to the aircraft for missions where crew members may need back up oxygen in case they have emergency depressurization. He's one of many airmen servicing the Flying Jennies.

The commander of the 403rd Wing says even with the planes staying on the coast, there are still some unknowns going forward.

"The unknowns would be, when we do rebuild, what's it going to look like? I will tell you we're going to have the same capability. I believe, that we had before. I would actually like to see us ensure that we have the manning required to make the mission effective and efficient," said Col. Frank Amodeo Commander of 403rd Wing.

Since 2012, when discussions about closing the 815th airlift squadron began, there's been a gradual reduction in manpower for that squadron. And Colonel Amodeo says rebuilding that manpower won't happen overnight and won't start until the Air Force gives the green light.

"The total number of full time positions that were lost was slated to be just under 100. Many of those positions we have already lost and so that rebuilding is going to take some time," said Col. Amodeo.

For now, the 815th squadron is on standby. Senator Thad Cochran's spokesman Chris Gallegos says money Congress approved for the squadron is tied up until 60 days after the report on costs and benefits of transferring the aircraft was released this month. During that interim period, the comptroller general will issue a report on the Air Force's findings.

"For me it's all about the airmen. It's always about the airmen. If I take care of the airmen and their families they're going to make the mission happen whatever that happens to be," said Col. Amodeo.

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