YARS Commander Reflects on First Year, Challenges

By Col. Daniel J. Sarachene

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – As a resident of the Mahoning Valley for nearly 30 years and commander of the 910th Airlift Wing and installation commander of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio (YARS) for nearly one year, I wanted to take this opportunity to write to everyone who holds a stake in the future of our military installation.

On Veterans Day, across the United States and here in the Valley, Americans took a moment from our busy lives to stop and reflect upon the great sacrifices our Service men and women make in defense of our great nation. Every November, legislators, local leaders, and patriotic citizens alike hold receptions and recognition ceremonies to commemorate and honor America’s military heroes. A good thing – but, frankly, giving praise is not the same as providing the resources needed to preserve and fortify our local warfighters in the face of a daunting operational pace. There are fundamental issues that must be addressed soon to avoid regression of and, if at all possible, increase the critical military value of YARS.

So what does this mean? It means certain groups with ties to the Youngstown-Warren metropolitan area must step up and answer the call to ensure that your air station is resourced and supported in a way that will allow it to be viable and dependable. Action must be taken by our federal, state and local elected leaders to set YARS up for future success regarding any further Air Force programmatic changes or from, what many view as an inevitability, another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

To the residents of the Mahoning Valley, please accept a heartfelt thank you for your continued support of our YARS family. Whether you are attending a public event at the installation such as an air show or just saying “Thank you for your service” in passing at a local store, restaurant or gas station, know that your kind thoughts and deeds mean the world to everyone serving at the 910th. If I could humbly make one request, it would be to urge each for you to let our elected officials know how important our installation is to you, to the Mahoning Valley and to the national defense by calling their offices, sending an email or writing them a letter.

To our federal delegation, your vocal support and attendance at events is appreciated and welcomed. But your efforts can’t end at the microphone. The United States of America, the most prosperous nation on planet Earth, has been dangling on a financial shoestring via a series of continuing resolution for more than eight years and under a budget sequestration since March 2013. For a federal installation such as YARS, this absence of a set annual budget severely limits our operational ability.

Government inaction at the federal level has handcuffed the U.S. military. For nearly a decade, the new norm is that our military units are given indicators that funds will be available but seldom is there a forecast of when these crucial resources will be received. It’s nearly impossible to provide the type of critical performance we expect from the finest fighting force in the world when we are not able to properly plan or execute the mission. Congress must pass a budget allowing the military to do the job we are sworn to do. Fiscal responsibility, reduced budgets and doing more with less is one thing. As adaptive leaders and Service members, we will get the job done no matter the circumstances. But to face a financial “great unknown” every few months is, without question, the largest challenge we face in getting the job done for the American people.

To our state delegation, thank you for supporting recent local and State efforts to unify and present a single voice in Columbus regarding our military assets in Eastern Ohio and across the Buckeye State. When the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission was formed at the behest of a past YARS commander, a majority of Valley representatives heeded the call. But like our Federal delegation, our state delegates must continue the fight and make real progress to unify Ohio in the way we have seen 36 others states do it: through State-level, long-term advocacy plans that reach from the governor’s office to the state House and down to the local level. For example, since the 2005 BRAC round, the state of Connecticut has dedicated 40 million of their state budget dollars to prevent encroachment and build military value surrounding their U.S. Navy installations. In 2017 alone, the state of Texas allotted $20 million of their state budget dollars to ensure the continued well-being and future growth of their defense communities.

While the state legislature has recently dedicated dollars to a few programs, a plan for annually allocated budget dollars to solidify the footing fiscal footing of Ohio’s military assets does not exist. When dollars do enter the budget, they are often pigeonholed for exclusive use by larger installations in the state, installations that should be invested in, but realistically do not face closure from a BRAC round. A loss of a single mission at a place like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will not devastate Dayton’s local economy. However, the closure of YARS and the loss of the installation’s $100 million annual economic impact and its role as one of the area’s top employers would absolutely devastate the Mahoning Valley. As our voice in Columbus, your advocacy has never been more critical than now regarding the future of YARS.

Finally, to our local civic leaders, the time is now to show pride in your hometown military installation. If you haven’t visited YARS lately or participated in an organization like EOMAC or the Youngstown Air Reserve Base Community Council, you need to. We host numerous events throughout the year that seek to engage leaders from local communities, and we welcome you to come out and take pride in what we have here in the Valley. Rest assured, your constituents want and need that support. We have over 1,600 reserve citizen airmen calling YARS their military “home” – more than 1100 of these Service members live less than 70 miles from the air station. We welcome each of you, as their elected representatives, to visit YARS. You can contact us by phone at 330 609 1236 or via e-mail at 910aw.pa@us.af.mil to make arrangements to do so.

At the end of each and every day, you can rest easy knowing that the men and women of the 910th Airlift Wing are doing their jobs with excellence and pride and without fail, all while being good stewards of the resources at our disposal. What we need, however, to reach our vision of providing unrivaled tactical airlift, aerial spray and agile combat support and being always ready to answer our nation’s call are those things mentioned above to be thoughtfully considered and acted upon if at all possible. After all, actions do speak louder than words and the cost of inaction, in this case, could be more than all of us who hold a stake in the future of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio can endure.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.