News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 8, 2006

Conversion of 181st Fighter Wing secures future of base in Terre Haute

Two new Air Force missions for the 181st Fighter Wing employing up to 420 people have secured the future of the base in Terre Haute.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Indiana National Guard made the announcement Wednesday.

Members of the 181st Fighter Wing will be converted to an Air Support Operations Squadron and a Distributed Common Ground Station.

The new assignments will replace the F-16 missions that were eliminated as a part of the Base Realignment and Closure in 2005.

“This is very good news,” said Capt. Jim Jensen, public affairs officer for the 181st Fighter Wing. “This solidifies our presence and offers longevity for the wing, which has been part of Terre Haute for more than 50 years.”

The new missions are higher tech, which is the future of the military, he said.

Terre Haute Mayor Kevin Burke was elated by the news. “This is wonderful,” he said. It’s the culmination of two years of hard work involving the city, economic development leaders, Indiana’s Congressional delegation and state leaders.

He gave special credit to Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, adjutant general for the state of Indiana, for his efforts. Umbarger advised officials to seek new missions rather than to fight to keep the F-16s.

“We made a decision to go after something that creates long-term viability for the 181st,” Burke said.

Landing the new missions did not come easy. At times, it appeared favorable, but at other times, “It would slide off the radar screen,” Burke said. “It has been a struggle, a lobbying effort and a marketing job.”

The Distributed Common Ground Station provides real-time imagery, electronic information and intelligence analysis to battlefield commanders. About 350 staff will be assigned to this work.

The Air Support Operation Squadron will have about 70 people in an assignment to coordinate aircraft support for combat troops. Those assigned to ASOS will be trained, deployed and embedded with ground troops to coordinate aircraft support, said Lt. Col. Shane Halbrook, senior full-time adviser to the adjutant general for the Indiana Air National Guard in Indianapolis.

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