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Navy secretary tours NAS Meridian

By Staff
BASE VISIT U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, center, meets with 1st Lt. Brian Beck, left, and 1st Lt. John Prince, right, during a Monday tour of Naval Air Station Meridian with U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael/staff writer
Jan. 15, 2002
U.S. Navy Secretary Gordon R. England on Monday praised pilots trained at NAS Meridian for helping protect America and the world from terrorism.
England toured NAS Meridian Monday with U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering a visit that included a late-afternoon public forum at Union Station in downtown Meridian.
The two men greeted pilots and other Navy personnel from Meridian, Texas and Florida.
They also got an up-close look at five trainer jets, including the T-34 Mentor, the T-6 Texan, the T-45A Goshawk and the T-2C Buckeye the Navy's oldest trainer jet.
England visits pilots
Navy Capt. Scott Payne, pilot of the T-34 Mentor, shared a few laughs with England while the secretary inspected his training jet.
While England talked with reporters after he visited pilots, the secretary paused for a second and admired the sounds of the jets flying over head.
England praises base
While England didn't specifically say NAS Meridian could survive a new round of military base closings, the secretary did say he believes the base is "well positioned."
England added that Congress likely won't consider the issue until 2005 at the earliest.
Pickering, the Republican 3rd District congressman, agreed. Pickering's district includes Meridian and Lauderdale County.
Pickering said that the possibility of adding the Super Hornet aircraft and counter-terrorism training to NAS Meridian could further stabilize the base's position.
Visit helps base
Pickering said that he believes the "future of NAS Meridian is very strong."
While America is fighting its first war of the 21st century and continues hunting Osama bin Laden England said bases like NAS Meridian could see upgrades and expansions.