The familiar KC-135 tankers will be gone in 2011. We also know that two other missions are coming at some point in the future. A third has been brought into bridge the gap between the time this mission ends and the others start.
But there is some concern that the bridge won't be long enough. In February 2007, state officials gathered in Meridian to announce the two new missions coming to the base in 2013.
While local residents were glad to hear Meridian would get another flying mission, there was still concern over a gap time. And now two years later, officials are still doing everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen.
"We've got the best group of folks here, and we want to make sure they remain in place," said Harper.
There are still many unanswered questions about the timing of these mission changes. Harper said he's meeting with base officials to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the future of the 186th.
"We understand it is that the MC-12 will be our bridge mission until the time we fill the C-27 aircraft," said Adjutant General William Freeman. "There is nothing concrete; we think that will happen and we are keeping our fingers crossed."
The expectation is that there will not be a gap period, but officials say they are doing everything they can to make sure there isn't one.
During the closed door meeting, Harper said he would be asking plenty of questions to make sure he is equipped with the the latest information when fighting for the base in Washington.
"The purpose is to get an update on some questions we have, such as the what ifs," said Harper. "What would happen under certain scenarios and maximize the base? And look at ways to make sure we don't wind up in a gap so we are always looking for that bridge flying mission."