Air Force Association

As people nationwide pause to remember the sacrifices of soldiers past, some locals are asking residents to make a sacrifice for soldiers of the present.

Former Air Force and Air Guardsman Roy Gibbens is spearheading an effort to charter a chapter of the Air Force Association here in Meridian. Along with many long lasting benefits for soldiers, he says he's hopeful that this effort could help shield the local Air Guard base from closure during next year's scheduled Base Realignment and Closure efforts, also known as "BRAC."

Gibbens say any locals who think that they are not affected by the base are sorely wrong. After all, numbers show the base pumps millions of dollars into the local economy each year.

"It would cost the city millions of dollars if we lost the guard," says Gibbens.

"This base provides about $40 million worth of salaries to the local area each year. In addition to that we provide all of the fire rescue services for the airport, as well as the air traffic control for the airport here," says Col. Erik Hearon, who is the commander for the 186th Refueling Wing at the base.

"I think the people in the Air Guard are local people. They're home folks and we've taken them for granted and they haven't received the support of the community that they really should receive," says Gibbens.

To help provide them with this support, Gibbens says the local Air Force Association charter will compliment and operate much like the local Navy League. Given the past success of the Navy League in helping ward off closure of Naval Air Station Meridian, Air Guard officials say they hope the Air Force Association can do the same when it comes to "BRAC" efforts next year. That's why they say it's important for locals to join.

"Most of these organizations rely on membership as a way of getting access to the Congress," says Col. Hearon.

Regular individual dues for the Air Force Association are $36 a year. You don't have to be a Meridian resident or a current or past Air Guardsmen to join.

For more information on becoming a member, call (601) 482-4412.


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