Government

Community Support Key to YARS’ Future, Leaders Say

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VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – In early August, Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller visited Youngstown Air Reserve Base. During her tour, the leader of the Air Force Reserve saw the equipment the airmen of the 910th Airlift Wing use on aerial spray missions and the impact the station has on the Mahoning Valley.

“She learned what we all know: that this is a great facility with a lot of great airmen,” said Col. Daniel Sarachene, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing. “When people come here, they’re totally floored. We have to keep getting the word out to these decision-makers. … They see the community support. They see the relevance and the ability we have.”

Sarachene spoke Thursday morning at the annual meeting of the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission. Created by the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber in 2015, the commission joins base, business, community and political leaders to advocate for the base.

The most important thing in ensuring the future success of YARS is community engagement, the speakers agreed. Speaking at the meeting were Sarachene, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Sen. Bill Johnson, Sen. Rob Portman and Vito Abruzzino, executive director of the commission.

“We have to be vigilant. Everyone is trying to make a dollar go further,” Portman said. “The Department of Defense is trying to save money so they can put as much money into what they consider the priorities. We have to make sure this base is viewed as one of those priorities.”

In addition to Youngstown Air Reserve Station, the commission also represents Camp Ravenna in Portage County. The station there is a contender for the military’s eastern missile defense system. Construction of a site for the system would cost upward of $3.5 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Ravenna is being considered alongside three other sites. A fourth potential site was dropped from consideration in 2013

“It fell out for one reason: the community. The community wasn’t supportive. We have to be close to the community and let them understand what the opportunities are,” he said. “The fact is there’s a consensus in this community that it’s really important.”

Added Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, “You never know when there’s going to be another [round of Base Realignment and Closing] and analysis of which base is contributing what. We need to stay united as a community because that’s always a major part of the analysis. Having the community support in Trumbull County and the Mahoning Valley is critical.”

Since coming on as commander of the 910th in February, Sarachene has made brining Air Force Reserve leaders to the base. In addition to having the highest-ranking member of the Air Force Reserve visit, the base also hosted the Ohio Aerospace & Technology Commission during the Thunder over the Valley Air Show in June.

“It’s another effort to get all the interested parties in Ohio lined up in case of a BRAC. It’s a reduction, but there’s also the opportunity to add on,” Sarachene said. “Perhaps we could take on another mission, which would be beneficial not only for national defense but also for the community.”

Part of the job the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission is doing is working with the community to explain the impact of the installations here in the Valley, across the country and overseas. Abroad, the airmen of the 910th have trained members of the Afghani air force and airdropped supplies to refugees fleeing the Islamic State.

In the U.S., the wing conducts spray missions to kill invasive plants and disease-carrying insects at a dozen military bases and in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Locally, those stationed at the base host toy drives around the holidays, blood drives throughout the year and work closely with area chapters of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC. Beyond that, most of the reservists at YARS are from northeastern Ohio and work in the Valley.

“The location isn’t technically in my district, but I represent parts of the Mahoning Valley and a lot of folks who work here are my constituents,” said Johnson, R-6 Ohio. “I believe strongly in the value of Youngstown Air Reserve base where national security is concerned.”

And since the creation of the commission, Abruzzino says, the impact of the base is being spread. His evidence: the new firing range recently installed at the base, the forthcoming addition of a new gate for commercial trucks, a new spray system for the base’s C-130s and interest from groups like the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Portage County Development Board.

“Two or three years ago, this stuff just wasn’t happening,” Abruzzino said. “It’s not by chance that these things have come to fruition. We’ve been pushing this agenda hard in Columbus and in D.C.”

Pictured: Vito Abruzzino, executive director of the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, says base improvements are the result of advocacy from community leaders and the commission.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.