(Hauppauge, NY- August 29, 2012) – In 1996, they were the first aircraft on the scene of the TWA Flight 800 crash; in 1999, they located the transponder from the wreckage of John F. Kennedy Junior’s downed aircraft, and in 2001, they were the first Air National Guard (ANG) personnel to respond to the World Trade Center. Stationed at Francis S. Gabreski Airport, just three miles north of the central business district of Westhampton Beach, the famed 106th Rescue Wing provides combat search and rescue support for United States and allied forces worldwide, and assists with everything from wild fire management to Coast Guard search and rescue operations here at home.
With that mission increasingly threatened by federal budget cuts to military installations nationwide, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced a plan to further safeguard the future of the ANG base at the county-owned airport, while enhancing the Rescue Wing’s ability to communicate with local, county and state emergency responders during local and national emergencies. Suffolk County has applied for a $126,000 matching grant under the New York State Empire State Development Corporation (NYESD) Military Base Retention Grant Program, which is designed to enhance the competitiveness of the base during the next round of federal base realignments and closures expected in future defense budget cuts.
“The 106th Rescue Wing has an important role in the defense of our nation, and is an equally important community resource and economic engine for the East End of Suffolk County,” said Bellone. “Now, we must stand by the brave men and women of the 106th and their families, by leveraging the state’s grant program to ensure they have the communication tools needed to carry out their mission.” Recent studies indicate that 1,146 full and part-time jobs and $89.2 million in expenditures are a direct result of Gabreski’s on-airport business.
The base at Gabreski is one of ten major military installations in New York State. The ESD grant is available to municipalities with a demonstrated history of support for military bases in New York. For several years, Suffolk County has been assisting the 106th to remain competitive with other bases around the country by making significant improvements to the aviation infrastructure used both by the Air National Guard and civilian aircraft at Gabreski Airport. The matching portion of the grant will be covered by lease revenue generated from the Westhampton Business District, an industrial park on airport grounds. Under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, revenue generated from enterprises on airport grounds must be used for airport purposes, including improvements.
"The 106th Rescue Wing is very fortunate to have extremely strong and committed partnerships with Suffolk County and our greater Long Island communities,” said Thomas J. Owens II Colonel, NYANG, Commander, 106th Rescue Wing. “As we continue to provide Personnel Recovery and Expeditionary Combat capability in the defense of our nation and in support of the people of New York, it is reassuring to know the historical roots of our militia construct are secure right here at home. The Wing is thankful to our local communities and our elected leaders for their tremendous support in working together to ensure future mission success and that they realize the Air National Guard truly is America's most affordable security."
“Efforts by Suffolk County to retain critical operations at this facility and over 1,100 full and part-time jobs are strongly endorsed by the Council as consistent with the Long Island Strategic Plan,” said Andrea Lohneiss, Executive Director of LIREDC.
“The 106th Rescue Wing is an essential part of the security for our region and the fabric of the local community. Southampton Town wholeheartedly supports this effort to enhance the capabilities and competitiveness of the base – a key economic engine for the area -- and is pleased to provide matching funds for the County’s grant application,” said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.
“In addition to their role in national defense, the Air National Guard makes a tangible contribution to the economy of the East End,” said Bellone. “This base provides jobs, training and a career path for many men and women in the local community. These highly skilled military jobs must stay in Suffolk.” Statewide, military bases account for more than 10,000 direct jobs and an economic impact of more than $1.9 billion. The grant funds will be used to purchase two wide band radio base stations with accessories, batteries, specialized antenna, chargers, multiband LMR and GPS microphones, mobile chargers, and vehicle antennae. The equipment will be controlled, operated and maintained by the ANG. In addition, a portion of the funds will underwrite the cost of travel to Washington D. C. to meet with elected and government officials periodically to advocate for the Gabreski base to remain untouched by federal defense cuts.