Oklahoma may be spared National Guard cuts

Friday, January 13th 2006, 9:44 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma may escape much of a planned national reduction in Army National Guard troop strength, the state's adjutant general said.

Guard strength will be reduced to 315,000 from 350,000 with most of the cuts expected in heavy brigade combat teams, Maj. Gen. Harry "Bud" Wyatt III said Thursday. Oklahoma may be spared because its 7,150 Army National Guard troops are being converted to light infantry.

The Air Force is expected to cut its personnel total to 93,000 from 106,800. In Oklahoma, that could mean 300 of the state's 2,400 Air National Guard troops could be affected. However, Wyatt said the state should fare well because the recent Base Closure and Realignment Commission called for adding 233 positions in the state.

However, Wyatt told the state Strategic Military Planning Commission that in two years Oklahoma could lose state access to military aircraft to move people and supplies in emergencies.

The state's eight C-130 transports based at the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base will be sent to other states in 2008. Four KC-135s are to be transferred to Oklahoma, which would give the 507th Reserve Air Refueling Wing at Tinker Air Force Base 12 tankers.

The planes are used for air-to-air refueling but can be used to haul cargo and personnel and Wyatt said he will try to get half the KC-135s marked for National Guard use so the governor can use them during emergencies.

Wyatt also said engineering work has begun in Norman on the first new Armed Forces Reserve Center in the state.

Centers also are to be built at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, at the Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester and Fort Sill in Lawton. The others will be built in western Oklahoma City, Muskogee and Broken Arrow.

The seven centers are expected to cost about $243 million and are to be built with federal funds by 2011.