Sen. Byrd, Gov. Manchin Visit Base to Celebrate C-5 Conversion

  • Published
  • By Capt Andrew Schmidt
  • 167th Airlift Wing
On a beautiful but windy day, friends, family members and citizens of the Eastern Panhandle toured the unit yesterday, taking the opportunity to see the 167th Airlift Wing up close during the unit's first open house in at least a decade. Making the day even more significant were visits by Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Governor Joe Manchin III, who were on-hand to celebrate the Air Force's recognition of the 167th as a fully functional C-5 Galaxy unit.

"To have this opportunity to be a C-5 base, and for it to be dedicated as a working base, it's pretty special," Gov. Manchin said.

The event featured static displays of an open C-5 Galaxy and C-130 Hercules for the community to tour and an F-16 Falcon from the 169th Fighter Wing, Columbia, S.C. Displays and demos were conducted by 167th Airlift Wing recruiting, the Retiree's Association, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, Greyhound Rescue, the Martinsburg City Police Department, multiple local universities and many other organizations.

A formation was held in the new hangar where local dignitaries and distinguished guests heard the senator and governor's words of praise.

"Nearly ten years of planning and execution combined with nearly three years and $220 million worth of military construction has transformed the 167th Airlift Wing into the nation's premier C-5 facility," said 167th Airlift Wing Commander Roger L. Nye. "More than three years of aircrew and maintenance training and mission execution has proven our capability. We have definitely arrived."

Distinguished guests in attendance included Morgan County Commissioners Thomas Swaim and Brenda Hutchinson; Brig. Gen. James Hoyer, director of the joint staff, West Virginia National Guard; Brig. Gen. Loda Moore, commander and assistant adjutant general for air, WVANG; Brig. Gen. Eric Vollmecke, chief of staff, WVANG; Brig Gen. Terry Butler (retired), former commander and chief of staff, WVANG; Brig . Gen. James Crawford (retired), former commander and chief of staff, WVANG; Col. David Buckalew, chief of the joint staff, WVNG; Col. Gene Altizer (retired), deputy adjutant general, WVANG; and Chief Master Sgt. Dee Bowe, state command Chief, WVANG, and many other notable guests.

Sen. Byrd was introduced by Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, who thanked the Senator personally for his championing the conversion and many other vital WVNG projects. "This means a great deal to the United States Air Force, and this means so much to the Eastern Panhandle," he said.

In his rousing speech, Sen. Byrd thanked 167th members and discussed the many times that the unit has had to face change, from the transition from a fighter wing in the 1960s to the efforts in the 1990s to draw down the number of aircraft stationed here.

"[Today] we celebrate more than 200 new, full-time jobs, increased economic impact, new skill sets and a near $280 million investment that I have helped to secure through the appropriations process for infrastructure improvements," he said. "With this transformation, we ensure the long-term stability and presence of the 167th Airlift Wing in the Eastern Panhandle."

Further base improvements are in the works, he said. "Already, the 167th has been designated as a C-5 Isochronal (ISO) Inspections site. This new endeavor alone will eventually result in approximately 100 additional new jobs here at the base."

"I am proud of each and every man and woman in the West Virginia Air National Guard," Sen. Byrd said. "You have answered the call to duty over and over again."

"Speaking for the people of this great state and nation let me say thank you, thank you for your selfless sacrifices to promote and to protect the freedom and liberties of all Americans."