Change of Command

It's official; there's now a new commander at the helm of the Navy's largest aviation squadron, Training Squadron Nine. Friday, Commander Michael J. Horsefiled took over for outgoing Commander Paul Shankland, who has been reassigned to Washington.

Both agree about the importance of strong community support when it comes to training.

"Most of the families that are here come from all over the country," says Commander Shankland, "and it's a very challenging environment for students to have to work under the crucible."

"The students are here typically for one year," says Commander Michael Horsefield. "So, they should not be isolated form the community and the more the community can do to make them feel at home, the better they will do when there are here and ultimately the better aviators they'll be."

Which is why Meridian Military Team President, Lamar McDonald, says the base should be spared in upcoming base closure talks.

"This community is known throughout the entire Department of Defense in their units here. We're optimistic but you never know but our mission for years has been to support the units that are here."

In the past, Naval Air Station Meridian has survived three previous closure attempts. The next round of base closures is set to take place in May of next year. With this being the case and community support slated as the third most important determining factor on the list officials say perhaps now more than every strong community support is needed.