In response to the US Air Force proposal on closing Air National Guard Units and to request you fight for LA's Air National Guard units in the upcoming budget debates. The USAF has projected LA's 259th Air Traffic Control Squadron be eliminated in 2013.
The proud men and women of the 259th ATCS have answered the nation's call in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other conflicts around the world dating back to its infancy in 1997 when the unit was still in conversion. These men and women served selflessly, and risked their lives every time the nation asked. These men and women are the same people who respond to any and all state disasters when called upon to do so. They run to both the sound of the guns and the fury of nature, to serve their fellow citizens. In many cases, their own families and property are neglected to assist others without fail. When the Louisiana Amy Guard Brigade is deployed, as was the case for Hurricanes Gustav and Rita, the Air National Guard had to take up a lot of slack to fulfill the State mission.
The nation faces severe fiscal problems, of that we are all aware, and support the necessity to trim government expenses. Please allow me to ask however, does it make sense to cut the only forces that can, by law, operate outside our nation's borders, and inside our states, by 6 times more than the active component? Further, our National Guard costs the US somewhere in the area of 6 % of DoD’s budget. That seems a very fair price tag for the value added impact a strong National Guard has on our state and country.
Since the 259 ATCS was commissioned July 12th, 1997, this unit has proven itself to be a highly experienced and capable asset to the State of Louisiana and the United States of America. While maintaining arguably the highest operational tempo of any other Air Traffic Control Squadron, the 259 ATCS has earned nine Campaign Streamers, an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the second highest overall grade in an Operational Readiness Inspection by any Active Duty or Air National Guard Air Traffic Control Squadron.
The 259 ATCS has deployed over 105 members to over 21 countries, in missions ranging from humanitarian relief in Honduras to a combat insertion to open the first U.S. Airbase in Northern Iraq. In September 2001, members of the 259 ATCS were activated by the President of the United States in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE to protect our own skies against further terrorist attacks. In November 2001, members of the 259 ATCS deployed the first Tactical Air Navigation Beacon to Khandahar, Afghanistan during the first days of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. In early 2003, the entire 259 ATCS was again activated by the President of the United States in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Some members of the 259 ATCS deployed a Mobile Radar Approach Control to Diego Garcia, British Territories, where they controlled B-2 and B-52 aircraft conducting the very first air strikes of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Other members were deployed to two classified locations before the onset of the war. They were then forward deployed into Northern Iraq or among the first USAF air traffic controllers to set foot in the Air Traffic Control Tower in Baghdad, Iraq. Since September 11th, 2001, the 259 ATCS has had members deployed to the middle-east every year, except 2007.
The 259 ATCS has answered the call to serve the citizen’s of the State of Louisiana. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the 259 ATCS deployed a Mobile Air Traffic Control Tower to establish a heliport for a search and rescue base and food/water distribution center at Zephyr Field in Metairie, LA. Over the next three weeks 259 ATCS members controlled over 16,000 helicopter operations. Other members were deployed to set up a distribution center at the Alario Center in Westwego, LA.
The 259 ATCS directly contributed to the distribution of over 4.5 million bottles of water, 2 million Meals-Ready-To-Eat, and 2,000 pallets of ice to the citizens of the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana. During Hurricane Rita, the 259 ATCS provided security for five evacuation and special needs shelters in Alexandria, Louisiana. From October 2005 through March 2006, over 50 percent of the members of the 259 ATCS served in Operation CRESCENT GUARD, augmenting the New Orleans Police Department and providing security for the City of New Orleans. In 2008, the 259 ATCS was again activated by the Governor of Louisiana for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Air Traffic Controllers from the 259 ATCS integrated with Army National Guard Aviation Command to form the Joint Air Operations Center for the State of Louisiana at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness during the relief efforts. Members of this team safely controlled over 200 AIR EVAC helicopter operations from an emergency heliport set up on the Louisiana State University Track and Field Complex. Their actions facilitated the evacuation of every hospital in harm’s way, resulting in the largest peacetime airlift in U.S. history, hours before the landfall of Hurricane Gustav. Other members of the 259 ATCS established a command and control element, and provided security for seven hurricane relief shelters and points of distribution in the cities of Shreveport, Bossier City, Monroe, Bastrop, and St. Francisville, Louisiana.
Since being commissioned in 1997 the 259 ATCS has provided uninterrupted, 24/7 tower and ground control approach air traffic services for Alexandria International Airport, at no cost to the state or local economy. On average, the 259 ATCS controls over 45,000 aviation operations per year. Of these operations, over 10,000 are commercial air carrier, and over 13,500 are military training flights from all branches of service. The 259 ATCS provides air traffic control service to multi-service and multi-national forces aircraft participating in exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Exercises at Fort Polk, as Alexandria International Airport is designated as their Intermediate Staging Base. Alexandria International Airport is also used by Fort Polk as the point of embarkation or debarkation for deploying and redeploying soldiers. Additionally, the Department of Justice utilizes Alexandria International Airport multiple times a day for inmate transport flights.
For the last ten consecutive years, the 259 ATCS maintained a manning level of over 100 percent, and has been recognized each year as having the highest manning of any other Air Traffic Control Squadron in the Air National Guard. As demonstrated with the Operational Readiness Inspection Grade, the 259 ATCS maintains a level of combat readiness and expertise that is equal to or exceeds that of other Air Traffic Control Squadrons, while being more cost effective than Active Duty Air Force counterparts. The 259 ATCS is not only an affordable asset to the National Command Authority, it provides a vital and irreplaceable service to Alexandria International Airport on a daily basis, and to the entire State of Louisiana during natural disasters. I respectfully request your help in ensuring that the men and women of the 259 ATCS are not repaid for their loyal service to their country, state, and local community by being decommissioned.