WARNER ROBINS -- The number of jobs to be cut at Robins Air Force Base could nearly double under a local initiative that targets the 402nd Maintenance Wing.
The base previously had announced plans to cut up to 600 jobs through voluntary buyouts but now is looking to trim another 540 from the maintenance wing, which employs about 9,000. That could mean up to 1,140 people off the payroll by the end of April.
Though Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, announced in January that there would be cuts to the maintenance wing, how many wasn’t publicly known until now.
With more than 1,200 people base-wide having applied for buyouts by Sunday’s deadline, involuntary separations won’t be necessary, said Max Wyche, personnel director at Robins.
The 600 job cuts are part of an Air Force-wide initiative to reduce personnel ranks by 16,500, and the maintenance wing was not included in an initial round of buyouts. The wing is funded through a separate account.
The maintenance wing cuts are a local initiative. Layoffs were a possibility to meet the 600 figure if enough people had not applied, but Wyche said even if not enough people applied to meet the 540 target in the maintenance wing, layoffs would not be needed.
The 540 figure was reached after a study of the expected workload, which is done each year, said Col. Evan Miller, commander of the 402nd Maintenance Wing. Although 700 people in the wing have applied for buyouts, it could be that fewer than 540 will be accepted because some who have applied may work in areas where the need is greater.
In the first round of buyouts that began last November, 238 people were accepted and were off the payroll by the end of the year. A second round began Jan. 9. The base began making offers Wednesday, and those who accepted must leave by April 30.
Wyche said there are no plans for another round of buyouts or forced reductions.
So far the impact on the local economy may be minimal. Wyche said previously that of the 238 people who separated, all but two were retiring, meaning they will still be getting a paycheck. He isn’t sure if that trend will be similar in the second round of buyouts.
Each person who accepts a buyout offer gets about $25,000, depending on their length of service.
Mary Therese Tebbe, executive director of the 21st Century Partnership, a community group that works to support the base, said it’s difficult to say what the economic impact of the buyouts will be. She said it’s important, however, that the reductions are voluntary, and she is hopeful those who are retiring will continue to live in the area.
“The bottom line is there will still be a very strong work force at Robins, and the work will still get done,” she said.
Even if the 540 target is met in the maintenance wing, employment rolls there will still likely be higher than just a couple of years ago. To meet the demands for aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan, the base hired more than 800 new aircraft mechanics.
Wyche said overall he is pleased with how the buyout effort has gone and that involuntary force reductions will not be necessary.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.