Rep. Steve Daines: Montana’s Skies Are Closed

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.”

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Montana: The Sound of Silence

The last three F-15 jets left Great Falls on Thursday (October 24) around 10:30 a.m. It was a historical moment in the history of Montana Air National Guard as jets have been assigned there since 1947. I watched the F-15s give us one more show as they flew in formation over their former home. Then they accelerated and, as if to say goodbye, they rattled my windows and dishes in the cabinet one more time – which brought a smile to my face.

The jets then disappeared over the horizon heading for a very warm welcome in California.

Their departure was a decisive win for Fresno, California, (where they were headed) and a devastating loss for Great Falls and the state of Montana.

Looking down the yellow brick road of promises, Montana is promised a few C-130 cargo planes. Maybe in the spring of 2014. Maybe not. It does not matter; you can’t duplicate the sound of freedom with a cargo plane.

Montana did not need to lose its fighter mission.

The only thing that delayed their departure was the government shutdown, but I was hoping that an elected official or someone would step up and fight for them. It did not happen. Frankly, it was an embarrassing time for Montana’s elected officials. They should be ashamed they let the Department of Defense (DoD) get away with it. No matter how much they proclaim they fought to keep the jets, it was not enough. No matter how much they proclaim the cargo planes are great for Montana, they aren’t.

It was on the watch of Senators Baucus and Tester, Representative Daines, and Governor Bullock that Montana lost the jets – a mission that Montana had in one form or another for over 60 years.

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Caught My Eye…

Welcome to Friday and “Caught My Eye!”

If this is your first time visiting The Western Word the “Caught My Eye” column is posted every Friday morning! This is when I take a quick look at some of the stories I did not have time to write about during the week. I often throw in a touch of sarcasm just to make you smile – or maybe to irritate you just a little.

Today I write about Shannon Augare, F-15s, the 2014 election, the Montana Legislature, Malmstrom AFB, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Sean Hannity, Stricter Gun Laws, Grenada, plus there’s another Making Montana Proud winner!

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Thursday Numbers

Welcome to the first “Thursday Numbers” of October – the government shutdown edition!

If this is your first time reading “Thursday Numbers,” this is where I take a look at the numbers that are in the news (in descending order) and provide commentary (sometimes spiked with a little sarcasm).

This week I write about a new retirement cottage, healthcare website visits, the top landowner, Montana’s federal employees, rat complaints, blame, wedding anniversary, unemployment, a dog’s expensive taste, Halloween Park, 19 shots, House Republicans, F-15s, and much more!

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Fresno Won

While the Montana Air National Guard (MANG) held a briefing yesterday about the first F-15 leaving Montana and heading to Fresno, California, the folks in Fresno held a celebration when the first F-15 arrived from Montana.

When you’re winning you can have a celebration, so pop the cork on that bottle of bubbly, Fresno – your leaders beat Montana’s leaders in the fight for jets.

More F-15s are on the way to Fresno with the last planes leaving Montana by October. That means Montana will not be a “fighter unit” for the first time in about 66 years – 66 years.

The local newspaper and television station have stories about the briefing and the move. You can read the Great Falls Tribune story HERE. KRTV (CBS) has a nice package that you can read/watch HERE.

As a consolation, Montana is “scheduled” to have eight C-130 cargo planes by next spring. Montana is also scheduled to lose about 80 jobs according to the Great Falls Tribune, “but not as many as originally on the table, according to spokeswomen for Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus” which is a nice way to “spin” the loss of jobs that happened on their watch. Continue reading

MT Flying Missions: Three things…

Happy April Fools’ Day! Although I wish the following column was a joke, it’s not.

The Montana Congressional delegation (U.S. Senators Max Baucus, Jon Tester, and U.S. Representative Steve Daines) along with Governor Steve Bullock signed a letter that was sent last week to the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley regarding flying missions at the Montana Air National Guard (MANG).

The Western Word was provided a copy of the letter from a source who follows defense and military issues closely in Montana and across the country. I like to share, so you can read it by clicking on this link:  MT Delegation Letter.

In their letter, the Congressional delegation and the Governor mentioned three things that concern them:

First, they would like C-130J aircraft assigned to MANG before the F-15s are transferred. C-130s are transport or cargo planes and F-15s are fighter jets. They would also like the C-130Js assigned to MANG instead of C-130H1 aircraft because they are newer. Second, they are concerned about the projected loss of personnel (approximately 90 slots) with the C-130 mission replacing the F-15 mission. Third, they are concerned there will not be adequate storage “to house and properly maintain these aircraft” so they would like some funding reprogrammed to build storage facilities for the cargo planes.  Continue reading

Thursday Numbers

Welcome to “Thursday Numbers!” In case you are new around these parts, this is my weekly column where I take a look at the numbers that are in the news (in descending order) and provide commentary (sometimes laced with just a little sarcasm).

NOTICE: If you read this column you may be able to use the information to impress your family, friends, and co-workers. Then again, when they find out that you spend your time reading blogs they may not be too impressed…

This week I write about Powerball, Ohio, burning hair, Montana PSC, lobbying in Montana, unemployment, bear hunting, Thomas Jefferson, Twitter, University of Great Falls, Katherine Webb, Lindsay Lohan’s mug shots, Jon Tester, Max Baucus, F-15s, ObamaCare, Adrian Dantley, and much more!

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