A blackhawk helicopter was towed out of the 1108th AVCRAD hangar. Members of the Gulfport based Army National Guard unit just gave the Alabama aircraft a tune-up.
Allen Letort works in the hangar. "We've gotta make sure the aircraft is safe when we give it to our customers," Letort said. "Our job is to satisfy our customers."
The 1108th works on helicopters for guard units in nine southern states. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also send aircraft to the Gulfport hangar for service.
Soon the AVCRAD hangar will be even busier. The Army National Guard just leased 23 acres of Gulfport land adjacent to the hangar to expand its operation. Col. Gervis Parkerson heads up the national guard unit.
"It's taken about a year, but today's it's come to fruition," the colonel said, when he was asked about the deal with Gulfport. "We'll take a 50 year lease with this property."
Right now, the property is Tramark's 11th hole. It's the only hole on the west side of Washington Avenue. Before a new stop light went up, Billy Applewhite said golfers had to dart through breaks in traffic to play the 12th hole. According to the Tramark Golf Pro, "There will be a lot of people more comfortable playing out here knowing they don't have to cross the road."
Tramark's plan is to turn its par five eighth hole and turn it into two holes -- a park four that goes straight down, and a par 3 that goes down to what is now the eighth green. That work will start in the next few weeks.
Six months from now, the Mississippi Army National Guard will begin its expansion, turning a single golf hole into a multi-faceted workshop. "We're going to expand and build a new paint facility on this property," Col. Parkerson said. "A stripping facility that will be able to paint and strip any military aircraft in the inventory today."
A blade repair facility and an engine shop will also be part of the expansion. That way, guardsmen will be able to work on a wider variety of military aircraft.
The Army National Guard expansion could be a catalyst for future training missions. According to Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs, an unidentified foreign military unit heard about the expansion, and then expressed an interest in coming to the city for training exercises. Those details haven't been finalized.