Fort Bragg: Air Force Insists Training Not Degraded

Air Force officials are insistent that airborne training and Global Response Force capability at Fort Bragg will not be diminished by the looming inactivation of the 440th Airlift Wing.

"Divesting the 440th Air Wing will not impact 18th Airborne Corps Global Response Force Joint Forcible Entry capacity and capability," said Maj. Lindsey Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

She said the Air Force remains committed to supporting Army airborne training requirements through the Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training Joint Management System, which provides Air Force training lines flown at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as well as other Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command units.

The Global Response Force requires paratroopers to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice for combat or humanitarian missions.

Wilkinson said the DoD can carry out the Global Response Force mission directly to an objective around the globe by using Air Force C-17s and C-130s not located at Pope Field.

"To this point, however, the service has voluntarily placed a hold on C-130 transfers and retirements at Pope AAF, pending outcome of the (2016 National Defense Authorization Act)," she said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, both North Carolina Republicans, sent a letter to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley stating their concerns over Air Force support at Fort Bragg.

A spokesman for Milley said he was looking into the letter from the senators.

The senators link the lack of support to the Air Force decision to eventually shutter the 440th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit at Fort Bragg's Pope Field.

"In the last few months we have engaged all levels of leadership in the 18th Airborne Corps from commanding generals to first sergeants," according to the letter. "To a man, we have received the same message -- the corps' airborne qualifications are degraded, units are not getting the support they require."

The 440th Airlift Wing was marked for inactivation in March 2014, but the actual closing has been delayed several times.

In July, Air Force Reserve Command confirmed it had pushed back the inactivation of the unit until at least fall 2016.

But officials had already begun to move airmen from the unit, which has made an impact on the support Fort Bragg's lone airlift unit can provide to the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps and other paratrooper units.

The Air Force's plans call for outside units to fill in for the 440th, flying crews to post for training events.

The senators' letter said the Air Force's own plan shows "they cannot meet Fort Bragg's daily training requirements if the indigenous Air Force lift presence disappears."

The senators want Milley to "engage leaders at the Department of the Air Force and question them as to why they are failing to live up to their commitment to ensure American troops are properly trained and ready for combat."

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