Washington debates future of Fort Bragg unit

Support remains strong for the 440th Airlift Wing as the Pentagon seeks to trim its 2015 budget.

WTVD-TV reported that the 440th Airlift Wing, an Air Force reserve unit providing critical training and support to the 82nd Airborne Division, is still the center of debate in Washington.

The unit, transferred from Wisconsin to North Carolina following the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, is home to 1100 Air Force reservists and support staff. It provides a quarter of the flight training at Fort Bragg. The estimated economic impact of the unit on the Sandhills region is $77 million.

The unit’s signature jumps on Fort Bragg could become an image of the past, but Thursday afternoon, routine training continued as 80 paratroopers gracefully glided from eight C-130s onto the Pope Army Airfield tarmac during training called the Elephant Walk and Halo Airborne Operations.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t happen because this is tradition,” said Army Spec. Tyron Nathan with the 824th Quartermaster company. “This is Fort Bragg right here, and (the) true spirit of Airborne. Hate to see it go, so let’s cross fingers it doesn’t happen.”

Local and state leaders fiercely oppose deactivation of the unit.

“I am deeply concerned about a proposal from the Air Force that would remove all of the C-130s stationed at Pope Army Airfield at Ft. Bragg,” said North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan during a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“These actions would leave no airlift at the home of the Airborne – something that I vehemently oppose,” said Hagan last week. “This is a rushed proposal that would attempt to push through a drastic decision before Congress has had the opportunity to review it through the full authorization and appropriation process.”

Read full story: WTVD-TV

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