Durbin, Kirk, Shimkus, Johnson, Schock, Schilling Ask Air Force to Explore Flying Missions for the 183rd Fighter Wing

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–June 22, 2011.  U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) were joined by Congressmen John Shimkus (R-IL-19), Tim Johnson (R-IL-15), Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) and Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17) in sending a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley asking that a flying mission be identified for the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield. In addition, the Illinois members asked that the 183rd be given an extension to continue firefighting capabilities beyond September 30, 2011.

Since 2007, Durbin has successfully secured three extensions of the firefighting unit at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, which was originally scheduled to expire in September of 2008. Durbin first began working in 2006 with then-Senator Barack Obama to keep jobs at the 183rd Fighter Wing and secure a new flying mission that would keep the firefighting unit in Springfield.

“The 183rd Fighter Wing operated a flying mission in Springfield for over sixty years until the final aircraft departed in 2008. Since then, the unit has performed critical maintenance and repair on the Air National Guard’s F-16 engines at a rate three times more efficient than military depots,” the Illinois members write. “Moreover, the 183rd is well equipped to assume a new flying mission with its access to airport facilities and is critically positioned for rapid response to emergencies in the New Madrid Fault Line and across the nation.”

The Illinois members conclude, “In addition, eliminating the current firefighting capabilities at Springfield would harm disaster response capabilities in Springfield, the rest of Illinois, and the region. A future flying mission would greatly enhance the 183rd’s ability to rapidly support such disaster response in Illinois and the region.”

[Text of the letter below]

June 16, 2011

The Honorable Michael B. Donley

Secretary of the Air Force

1670 Air Force Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330-1670

Dear Secretary Donley:

Since 2005, the Congressional delegation from Illinois has worked relentlessly with the Secretary of Defense, the Air Force and the Air National Guard to ensure a flying mission for the 183rd Fighter Wing, which would also allow for continuation of the firefighting mission at Springfield. We once again ask for your support to identify a flying mission for the 183rd and request an additional extension of the unit’s firefighting capabilities beyond September 30, 2011.

The 183rd Fighter Wing operated a flying mission in Springfield for over sixty years until the final aircraft departed in 2008. Since then, the unit has performed critical maintenance and repair on the Air National Guard’s F-16 engines at a rate three times more efficient than military depots. As a result, the 183rd maintains a unique set of skills and expertise that are vital to the Springfield region. Moreover, the 183rd is well equipped to assume a new flying mission with its access to airport facilities and is critically positioned for rapid response to emergencies in the New Madrid Fault Line and across the nation.

In addition, eliminating the current firefighting capabilities at Springfield would harm disaster response capabilities in Springfield, the rest of Illinois, and the region. A future flying mission would greatly enhance the 183rd’s ability to rapidly support such disaster response in Illinois and the region.

As the Air Force and Air National Guard continue to explore flying missions for the 183rd, we request that you delay the planned closure of the 183rd’s fire fighting capability. We look forward to your response and look forward to working closely with you to identify a suitable flying mission for the 183rd Fighter Wing.

US Senator Mark Kirk

US Senator Richard Durbin

US Rep. John Shimkus

US Rep. Tim Johnson 

US Rep. Aaron Schock

US Rep. Bobby Schilling

Source: durbin.senate.gov