140522_guard_jas

Col. David Halter, left, gives a tour of a C-130 plane to State Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, Wednesday afternoon at the 139th Airlift Wing. Mr. Pearce is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

State Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, paid a visit Wednesday to the 139th Airlift Wing, along with fellow Sen. Dr. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

The visit included a briefing by senior leaders of the Air Guard unit based at Rosecrans Memorial Airport.

With 1,100 airmen, the Wing is the state’s largest concentration of Guard personnel, said Col. Ralph Schweder, commander. The Air Guard has the same or better capabilities than similar active duty units at about one-fourth the cost, he added.

The visit came about because of meetings with the Community Alliance of St. Joseph’s Steve Johnston earlier this year. “The visit is a chance to explain in more detail what goes on at Rosecrans,” Mr. Johnston said.

It’s the first time two state senators serving on the appropriations committee have paid a visit, said R.T. Turner, presiding county commissioner. The community will need to continue looking for support from the state, and needs leaders like these two to assist, he added.

For instance, Dr. Schaaf was instrumental in obtaining $2 million from the state’s general revenue funds to begin levee repairs. Costs for levee repairs are rising and currently sit between $66 million and $70 million.

It was noted that levees are protecting about a billion dollars’ worth of government assets on the base.

The Wing’s next overseas mission will be to Malaysia in June, said Col. Ed Black, 129th Operations Group commander. “We are operational 24/7 worldwide, with airlift support,” Mr. Black said.

“I’m surprised, because I hadn’t seen the breadth of what was going on here,” Mr. Pearce said.

Mr. Turner said he’d be working with the city to find the best way to begin making $2 million worth of levee improvements, so the state would want to assist again next year.

Marshall White can be reached at marshall.white@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWhite.