WASHINGTON - The new chief of the Air National
Guard admits he does not have much good news to
offer such units as Springfield's 183rd Fighter
The 183rd, based at Abraham Lincoln Capitol
Airport, is scheduled to lose its F-16 fighter
jets because of action last year by the Base
Realignment and Closure Commission.
Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley said he does not know
yet what new missions will be assigned to most
of the Air Guard units that are in the 183rd's
All he can do now, McKinley said, is try to
let the units keep their aircraft as long as
But the BRAC law requires all action to be
completed within six years of the approval of
the commission's decisions on Sept. 9, 2005. And
the Air Force is expected to make most of the
aircraft moves early because many of the Guard's
planes are old and becoming more expensive to
The 183rd, which recently completed a combat
tour in Iraq, will lose its 15 F-16 fighters to
an Indiana Air National Guard unit in Fort
Wayne, which will retire its current fighters.
The Illinois Air National Guard headquarters
and the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron
will remain at the Springfield airport, and a
jet engine repair operation is to be moved in.
The changes are expected to result in a net loss
of 163 personnel, mostly civilian defense
McKinley suggested that Springfield might
pick up some emerging support duties, such as
foreign military sales or monitoring air or
None of those steps would provide flying
duties for the wing's pilots.
McKinley, who assumed his post this summer,
clearly remains unhappy with the way the Air
Guard was treated in last year's BRAC process.
"Why did the Air National Guard get handled
so badly? I don't have a good answer to that,"
the general said during an appearance at the Air
Force Association conference in Washington on
During the BRAC process, the adjutants
general - the top Guard officers in each state -
complained openly that the active Air Force
leadership did not include them in the
deliberations that led to the closure
Several governors, including Illinois Gov.
Rod Blagojevich, filed lawsuits seeking to block
the BRAC action. Most of those challenges were
rejected in the federal courts. But one dealing
with a multi-service Guard and Reserve base at
Willow Grove, Pa., remains active
So far, all challenges to the BRAC law, which
was drafted to pre-empt the legal and political
obstacles that had prevented base closures for
two decades, have been rejected by federal
courts, including the Supreme Court.
McKinley concedes the 2005 BRAC is a done
deal, but said he will do the best he can for
the Air Guard personnel who are affected.