'City of Carson City' plane could be lost in base closings

Nevada Air Guard photo The "City of Carson City" C-130 Hercules airplane flies low over the Nevada desert during training.

Nevada Air Guard photo The "City of Carson City" C-130 Hercules airplane flies low over the Nevada desert during training.

RENO - When the C-130 Hercules cargo and troop-carrying planes were acquired by the Nevada Air National Guard in 1995, each was given the name of a major Nevada city.

Thus, one was named "City of Carson City," and in its countless missions throughout Nevada, the United States and overseas, it has proudly carried the name of Nevada's capital city emblazoned on its fuselage.

The Pentagon's proposal last week to move the Guard's eight C-130 aircraft to a base in Arkansas means the "City of Carson City" nameplate on the giant airplane will be removed when the aircraft is flown out of state, said Maj. Gen. Giles Vanderhoof on Wednesday.

Removing the C-130s from the Nevada Air Guard's base at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, the Pentagon would virtually wipe out the Guard's flying assets as the C-130s are the only aircraft it has, said Vanderhoof, who is the state's adjutant general.

The Pentagon's decision to shift the planes to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas is part of its plan to close or realign 180 U.S. military installations.

But there's still a possibility the Pentagon's plan to move the eight C-130s, as well as its decision to close down the Hawthorne Army Depot and reduce by seven the U.S. Navy population at NAS Fallon, could be reversed, Vanderhoof said.

The nine-member independent base closing commission appointed by President George Bush has the power to negate some or all of the Pentagon's base closing and realignment recommendations, and that is what he is hoping for, the adjutant general said in an interview.

The C-130s, which 10 years ago replaced the Air Guard's fleet of RF-4C "Phantom" reconnaissance aircraft, have proved to be invaluable to the Guard's state and federal mission, and their departure would be a hardship in providing assistance to Nevadans in times of emergency.

Carrying troops, cargo, medical personnel, vehicles and communications equipment, the C-130s are capable of landing on short air strips and delivering supplies to needy communities by parachute drops, Vanderhoof said.

Equipped with specialized cameras which can take infrared photos of disasters such as floods and forest fires and relay the images from the air to military and civilian rescue authorities on the ground, the C-130s have provided excellent service in times of trouble, he said.

During the Waterfall fire the planes flew through the smoke at low altitudes and relayed to firefighters on the ground video outlines and maps of the fire's spread. Air Guard fire trucks also assisted civilian fire equipment, he added.

The C-130s also have been used to photograph and map floods and most recently, dropped food by parachute to cattle stranded by floods in the Clark County communities of Mesquite and Overton, Vanderhoof said.

Crisscrossing the state on training and rescue missions, the eight C-130s also are on call for potential civil and Homeland Security emergencies.

At the federal level, the Air Guard's planes have been called to duty in all major crises, including in Bosnia, Kosovo and Uzbekistan, and are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than 2,000 of the state's Air and Army Guard's 3,100 personnel have served, or are currently serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Vanderhoof, who will retire from his position June 11 and become full-time Nevada Director of Homeland Security, a post he now holds part-time, hopes the Base Realignment and Closure Commission will reverse the Pentagon's decision to move the airplanes to Arkansas.

"We need those aircraft in Nevada. It is critical that they stay here," he said.


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