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Speaking out on base closure

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
May 16, 2004
Local residents are weighing in on the potential impact of the upcoming round of military base closures and decisions made by the Navy to transfer certain components from Naval Air Station Meridian.
One letter-writer today expresses concern for the transfer of three search and rescue helicopters; he views SAR units as an essential support component of the Navy's pilot training program. It would be a bad sign, he says, if the SAR units were moved from NAS Meridian. He's trying to get the attention of the state's congressional delegation without much success so far.
Other residents have expressed concern about the pending departure of one large school associated with the Naval Technical Training Center. Some of this school's work will apparently become Internet-based.
Coincidentally, NTTC will get a new commanding officer on June 25 as Cmdr. Moses D. Everett Jr. is relieved by Cmdr. Carol E. Shivers. Folks close to the base tell me this is a regular rotation and nothing should be read into the change of command beyond that.
Diverse elements located at NAS Meridian remain strong and many facilities and programs are being upgraded.
One thing is clear: In the BRAC climate, rumors are likely to circulate wildly. It's important for all BRAC-related concerns and issues to be aired, not as a scare tactic but in the interest of everyone realizing the very serious implications. On the other hand, maybe fear of losing our bases is one motivation for all of us to really get behind them.
Meanwhile, up in Washington, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor said last week the House Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 defense authorization bill that would delay the next round of the base realignment and closure for two years.
I'm hardly a military strategist, but what Taylor says seems right on all counts. But even the possibility of a BRAC delay must not stop officials from planning and acting to protect NAS Meridian and the 186th Air Refueling Wing of the Mississippi Air National Guard.
Highway 80 update
Seventeen local Korean War veterans on Friday heard a presentation by William Clark of Pearl and then unanimously endorsed efforts to designate Highway 80 through Mississippi as Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway. Veterans of C Battery, 4th 155 MM Howitzer Battalion, took the action at a meeting I was delighted to attend at the invitation of Meridian businessman and Korean War veteran Hoot Gipson.
The honorary highway designation has been placed on the Meridian City Council's agenda when it meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Courtroom, and several members of C Battery said they plan to attend. Of all governing jurisdictions cities and counties along Highway 80's route, Meridian is the lone holdout in endorsing the honorary designation.
You can't help but be thoroughly impressed with the patriotic spirit and strong community-mindedness of these Korean War veterans, an attachment they share with all veterans. I was privileged to be in their fellowship.
The controversy over the highway designation should never have happened; hopefully, the Meridian City Council will set things right by endorsing the proposal.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail bynum@themeridianstar.com.

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