During Vance Visit, 910th Commander Predicts YARS Will Get New Planes

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Youngstown Air Reserve Station already is preparing for the arrival of eight C130-J planes expected to be awarded to the 910th airlift wing, its commander said Tuesday afternoon.

An environmental assessment expected to take place in late spring or early summer is the final step to be taken before the aircraft are awarded, Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, 910th Airlift Wing commander, said during a brief media availability with U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio. 

“There already is a current delivery schedule. That’s how confident we are that this transition will occur,” Van Dootingh said.

The visit to YARS was the first for Vance, who was elected to the seat previously held by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. The freshman senator visited the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing near Toledo on Monday as part of an effort to gather information about the state’s military assets.

The goal of the visits is when an issue comes up that might affect the base, he isn’t “going into it blind,” Vance said. 

From left, state Rep. Nick Santucci, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance and Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, 910th Airlift Wing commander.

“It’s great to get a sense of what you guys are doing and what you’re up to,” Vance said. “I obviously care a lot about the economic impact of the base to the region, but I also care about the national security impact, and both are important. Both are worth fighting for.”

Vance said he wants to make sure Ohio continues to have a “strong military tradition,” something that can’t happen unless the bases get the support from the federal government that they need.

“It’s obviously really important that the delegation come in and know the assets that we have in the state of Ohio and be familiar with them,” said Vito Abruzzino, executive director of the Eastern Ohio Military Commission, who accompanied the senator during the visit. “Without that, it’s difficult for them to go back and advocate for those assets.  

In late 2020, members of Ohio’s congressional delegation – including former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who challenged Vance for the Senate seat – announced that YARS was the “preferred location” for the eight C130-Js. Ryan, who served on the House Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations, had inserted $800 million into the fiscal year 2020, 2021 and 2022 defense appropriations bills to fund the purchase of the planes and advocated for YARS as the destination of the aircraft.

Vance credited Ryan for “being a big part” of the effort to transition YARS to the C130-Js, which will help ensure the base is “going to be a major part of the Air Force’s mission going forward,” he said.

The upcoming environmental assessment, which Van Dootingh characterized as “one last hurdle,” will look at the base’s “imprint on local communities regarding issues such as noise abatement,” he said.

“Generally speaking, those are passed with flying colors,” he said. “I don’t anticipate that there will be any snags with that. And so we are fully moving ahead with the transition to the J models. In fact, our [leadership from] headquarters will be out here next month for a meeting with us to lay out exactly how we’re going to do that transition.”

Van Dootingh expects the first of the aircraft to arrive in about a year, beginning with one that primarily will be used for training and another for maintenance to learn how to repair the new model. The remaining six will come over the next 14 months.

During the visit, Van Dootingh said he briefed Vance on projects such as the new main gate entrance and work to be done on the base’s runways.

The base has “a laundry list of projects” that the senator could assist with, Abruzzino said. The base is looking at upgrades to its fire department, as well as an alternate gate to provide access for fuel trucks and other vehicles of that nature.

“Most facilities have two gates. In case one goes down, you have that other that you can go through,” he continued.

Another area base, Camp Garfield in Ravenna, is looking for an improved dirt airstrip. 

“There’s always military construction that they’re looking for every year, different things to help upgrade or replace facilities,” he said.

Following the media availability with Van Dootingh, Vance responded to the announcement by state Sen. Matt Dolan – one of his rivals in the 2022 GOP Senate primary – that he planned to run for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Sherod Brown, D-Ohio. He expressed his admiration for anyone who is “willing to take on that challenge” but expected to have more to say once the field of candidates is clearer.

“I’ll have a few friends, at least, running in that field, I suspect,” he said.

Pictured at top: U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, left, and Col. Jeffrey Van Dootingh, 910th Airlift Wing commander.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.