MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NC -- Top DOD and governmental budget officials visited Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and its outlying training facilities June 25 to examine the effects of encroachment around Cherry Point facilities and to determine ways to prevent interference with training and flight operations.
Representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Council on Environmental Quality were here to get a closer look at the challenges Cherry Point faces with threats of encroachment, and to better understand how Cherry Point would use future funding to help with those challenges.
Encroachment upon military installations can come in many forms, but for aviation installations the most common encroachment is civil construction near bases that leads to noise complaints and tall structure hazards to aviators. As these forms of development encroach upon bases and training areas, they reduce viable air space for realistic training of combat aviators that is not only necessary, but required by law.
The key components of the visit were tours of Bombing Target 11 on Piney Island, Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic and Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue. The goal was to give them bird's-eye and ground-level perspectives on encroachment risks here and the importance of their support for facilities used not only by 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, but other military and Department of Homeland Security agencies in the region.
Each year Congress grants the executive branch funds after receiving a budget proposal from the president. The yearly budget is prepared by OMB and affects all branches of the military. At Cherry Point, in addition to its normal operating expenses, funds are requested to help with the purchase of land or land easements in and near critical training areas through partnerships with other organizations with parallel interests, such as the protection of wetlands and other environmentally important areas.
"Many of the visitors had never seen firsthand where the funds they provide go toward supporting the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program for military installations," said Carmen A. Lombardo, the natural resources manager for Cherry Point. "Our plan was to give them that experience."
Col. Chris Pappas III, commanding officer for MCAS Cherry Point, began the visit with a presentation about current and future plans for Cherry Point and its auxiliary training facilities. Next, the visitors and staff from the air station took flight in HH-46 Sea Knights from Marine Transport Squadron 1 to view the area from the air.
"Flying this diverse group of officials around our military installations provided for a better understanding of how funds are used to prevent encroachment here," said Lombardo. The aerial view offered the visitors another perspective of the different threats contributing to encroachment around the military area of operations, said Lombardo.
"We flew the same field carrier landing pattern that aircraft use around Bogue Field," said Lombardo. "This opened their eyes to how close residences are built around the installation."
Tyler B. Harris, the Community Plans & Liaison Officer for Cherry Point, saw this as an opportunity to better demonstrate how tall towers and potential wind farms may present an issue in the coming years.
"Taller structures cut into our airspace, forcing the pilots to fly at higher attitudes and making their training less realistic," said Harris.
The visitors also touched down at Atlantic Field to tour the new Military Operation on Urban Terrain facility and to learn more about the hands-on training opportunities currently available at Cherry Point.
"Seeing structures like the MOUT town was a new experience for most of the visitors," said Harris. "Without giving them an aerial perspective or bringing them down and physically touring structures, I don't think the message we were trying to pass would have been as effective."
That message, ultimately, was that Cherry Point makes great use of REPI funding to benefit the country and Eastern North Carolina by continuing to provide the American warfighter with critical training capabilities, and through the effective management of environmentally important land.