It’s been a busy weekend at the Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, home to the 104th Fighter Wing. Saturday, the wing was honored as the Airspace Control Alert Site of the Year. Today, the base played host to key local, state and Federal leaders.
The annual Legislative day Sunday at Barnes gives the military leadership a chance to give federal, state and local elected officials at look at the mission of the 104th Fighter Wing and the importance of the role they play in defending the nation.
Major General Gary Keefe is the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard. He says the biggest selling point of Barnes is the base itself, adding, “It is used as the textbook example of what the nation wants out of its air national guard bases. It's a very small footprint here at Barnes Municipal Airport , costs next to nothing for the unit to be here and the amount of economic impact they bring into the Westfield and Western Mass community is huge.”
Lt General Scott Rice was part of the 104th for 25 years. The director of the country’s entire National Guard says, “Running a program across the country with 90 wings, it's nice to comeback and compare what all the other wings are doing to something I know and care about deeply and that's Barnes Air National Guard Base.”
Lt General Rice says the future looks good for Barnes, adding, “Their current mission flying F-15s is going to be a mission that the nation needs for a long time. They have at least a 10, 15 almost 20 year future at their current model and the way they're operating.”
A future that could include F-35 fighter. Major General Keefe believes the 104th has as good a chance as any Air National Guard base in the country to be home to the stealth fighter jet. He says, “They've got a munitions storage area, a great runway and above all, community support is really what kind of helps influence a lot of those decisions and the community support around here for the 104th Fighter Wing is unmatched.”
It was also Family Day at the 104th. Wing Commander Colonel James Keefe says it’s when family members come to the base to see what their loved ones do every day, “We kind of shut down the flying operation, we bring everybody out here. We show them the aircraft that we fly, we show them the different jobs we perform, so they get a better understanding of what we do here.”
Airman Nicholas Duclos is new to the 104th. He says, “I just came back from basic about two months or so ago and was just fortunate enough to be offered a full time technician position over in the finance department. So it's a good way to be welcomed into the wing and introduce my family to my new co-workers.”
The picnic also honored Wing members who recently returned home from Europe as a part of the theater security package to Iceland, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Bulgaria, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
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