Since July 2008 I have been writing about the proposed Powder River Training Complex (PRTC) that would extend into southeastern Montana. The expanded training area would be used by B-1 and B-52 airplanes from Minot and Ellsworth Air Force Bases in North and South Dakota. Of course other planes from other bases could use the area, too. It would expand to about 28,000 square miles from the current 8,300 square miles.
I have supported the expansion from the beginning.
Unfortunately, the Montana congressional delegation has not supported the expansion for trivial reasons. Who knows, maybe some big donors live in the area and this is their ultimate reason for not supporting the expansion.
Since 2008, elected officials in Montana have basically told anyone and everyone that Montana’s skies are closed. Their backward thinking may have even caused the Montana Air National Guard to lose their jet fighter mission – plus hurt the chances of Malmstrom AFB (near Great Falls) from ever getting another flying mission – or getting an aerospace contractor to relocate to Montana to use Malmstrom’s closed runway.
The Associated Press yesterday reported that freshman Congressman Steve Daines has “asked the Air Force to remove from its plans a vast swath of airspace above southeast Montana, northwest South Dakota and southwest North Dakota.”
That is a totally asinine move on Daines’ behalf. Daines has proven, once again, that he has little or no experience when it comes to military issues. Sadly, all indications are that he will never give a damn about expanding the military’s role in Montana.
U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) understands our military and has supported the expansion from the beginning. It will also save millions of dollars and allow crews to train closer to home. According to information posted on his website:
By expanding the current training space and allowing for the B-1 Bombers to conduct exercises closer to home, the Air Force will also be saving millions of dollars in flight hours over the long-term. Had the PRTC been completed in 2013, the Air Force estimates it would have saved $21 million during that year alone.
I applaud Thune for his tireless work on the expansion and his support for our military. It’s too bad Montanans who support the military have to go all the way to South Dakota to find an elected official who supports them.
It’s also troubling to see all this happen after Daines was one of the “Special guests” at Thune’s fundraiser in West Virginia over the weekend. Daines’ attendance might not have been so “Special” if Thune knew what he was proposing.
Note: You can read all my columns about the Powder River Training Complex by going to “Categories” on the right side of the screen, then clicking on the dropdown menu and selecting “Powder River Training Complex.”
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