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6/5/2018 12:49:00 PM
Federal bill pegs Grissom Air Reserve Base for $21.5 million in projects
Men and women from the 434th Air Refueling Wing offload baggage and cargo upon arrival to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. Airmen from the Hoosier Wing deployed to Homestead to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota)
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Men and women from the 434th Air Refueling Wing offload baggage and cargo upon arrival to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Sept. 12, 2017. Airmen from the Hoosier Wing deployed to Homestead to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

Carson Gerber, Kokomo Tribune

BUNKER HILL – A federal bill authorizing new military spending includes $21.5 million to fund an upgraded airplane hangar and new aerial port at Grissom Air Reserve base.

The funding is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which passed in the House last month with all nine U.S. representatives from Indiana voting in favor of the legislation. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

If approved, the bill would authorize $9.4 million to build an aerial port at Grissom to support a new squadron housed at the base. 

Grissom Public Affairs Officer Doug Hays said the 12,000-square-foot facility would allow the 49th Aerial Port Squadron more space to move cargo and equipment for both military and humanitarian missions. The squadron is currently sharing a building with another entity at the base.

“There’s not enough room in there for personnel, let alone all the cargo and equipment they need to have in there,” he said.

The unit that would use the facility was upgraded last month to a squadron after the Air Force Reserve boosted the number of personnel from seven to 120 over the last two decades.

The bill would also appropriate $12.1 million to upgrade one of the six airplane hangars at the base.

Hays said only one hangar right now is large enough to fit an entire KC-135 Stratotanker inside. The funding would allow the base to upgrade another hangar to fully accommodate the refueling planes.

“Ninety percent of the time it’s fine, but there always that 10 percent of the time when you get stuck working on an airplane tail outside in the middle of January,” he said. “This offers our maintainers a better work environment to maintain what is already the best KC-135 unit in the Air Force.”

Grissom has the largest unit of Stratotankers in the Air Force Reserve Command. 

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which gave input on the bill, said in a release the legislation would “make the investments needed to ensure our servicemembers have the tools they need to keep our nation safe.”

Hays said the fact that Grissom is up for a significant boost in funding next year shows the base remains an important part of the Air Force Reserve.

“It shows that the Air Force values Grissom and the things that we do,” he said. “It’s a good affirmation of that and the fact that we continue to grow.”

The base is currently finishing a $36-million fuel hydrant system project that is being paid for through federal funding.

The bill also includes $16 million to support a railyard at Crane’s Army Ammunition Activity, located in southern Indiana, along with $6.9 million to support energy conservation projects at NSA Crane.

Donnelly also successfully pushed for increased investment in technologies that could help Indiana universities. The bill supports science and technology efforts, including $15 million to support development of hypersonic wind tunnels to develop new weapons. Much of that work is being done at universities such as Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame.

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