Budget reversal saves 22 jobs in 116th ACW

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- With mandated cuts announced in April, 22 airmen in the 116th Air Control Wing were told that their jobs were being eliminated. On Wednesday, though, those jobs reappeared.

“Notifications that they would be terminated have already been issued, and now those have been rescinded,” said Brig. Gen. William Welsh, the 116th commander. “The bottom line result means positions and jobs are saved, for a positive impact on the local economy and no mission impact at Robins.”

The reversal came after an extensive effort by Air National Guard leaders across the country, who urged members of Congress to reverse the cuts called for in the Air Force’s budget request, Welsh said. Those cuts would have eliminated 5,100 Air National Guard troops.

A total of 50 jobs in Georgia will be saved under the reversal, including some at an Air National Guard unit in Savannah.

The cuts in the 116th would have affected flight crew positions and mission support positions. Also, perhaps most notably, it would have eliminated the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight. Welsh said part of the argument against the cuts was that the unit is much needed on base -- and in the surrounding communities.

The unit takes care of ordnance disposal duties for the entire base. It is sometimes charged with disposing of munitions that have degraded with time.

The 116th EOD unit also regularly responds to calls of suspicious packages in the surrounding area when the GBI bomb unit is not available, said Col. Greg McCreary, the 116th Mission Support Group commander. The unit recently served on standby as a safety precaution at the Independence Day fireworks show in Warner Robins.

The unit is also widely used in Afghanistan, and it usually has at least one member deployed at any given time, McCreary said. The cuts would have divested the Air National Guard of bomb disposal units, affecting 17 states, Welsh said, and the change reverses all those cuts.

Of the 22 cuts that had been planned for the 116th, 14 were active-duty positions, while the others were part time.

The 116th, in conjunction with the active duty 461st Air Control Wing, operates the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System.

Welsh said the reversal will not affect a decision mandated in the Air Force budget to retire one J-STARS plane that was damaged.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.