WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Barnes Air National Guard Base hosted family members and lawmakers Sunday.
The 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield hosted State, Federal and high ranking military officials Sunday afternoon.
Lt. Gen. Scott Rice of the Air National Guard, Director told 22News, “I’m from here, and I have a home here. So this for me is home and I love this place. I use this as the model for the whole Air National Guard across the country. Of 90 wings that I’m responsible for, this is one of the premier wings of the whole country.”
The future of the oldest flying combat unit in Massachusetts was at the forefront of discussion.
“We work very closely with Lt Gen Rice down in Washington pretty closely with General Keefe here in Massachusetts and the local base to make sure these bases stay strong for the future,” said Michael Knapik of the Mass. Governor’s Western Massachusetts office, director.
Major General Gary Keefe of the Massachusetts Air National Guard told 22News, “As the Adjutant General I can tell you there is not another base that has the close relationship with its surrounding elected officials the way the folks here at Barnes do.”
The base is one of several, currently being considered for the Air Force’s newest Jet fighter plane, the F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.
“What I will say is that the 104th Fighter Wing if you look at us we are the model guard base. We’ve got a great relationship with the city of Westfield, we’re not that expensive to run and we deliver a huge amount of combat power for what the taxpayer is paying,” said Col. James Keefe Commander 104th Fighter Wing.
If chosen, the first F-35’s would arrive in the summer of 2022.
Twelve F-15 fighter jets like the one I’m standing next to and 350 airmen from Barnes Air National Guard Base and Fresno, California were sent to Iceland in April to help NATO allies as Russian aggression grew in the region. Most of those service members have returned home.
TSgt. John Takach of Connecticut told 22News, “I’m typically just a weekend guy but I did get on the list to deploy. So I just got back a few weeks ago, about a month ago I suppose and I got to do this on a full time basis for three months. It was great fun.”
The 104th Fighter Wing had its Family Day picnic after the briefings Sunday to honor members that recently returned home from the operation.
“Today is a great opportunity for us to kind of showcase what we do for the community. So the family knows what I get up to on the weekends, I’m not just playing around,” said TSgt. Takach.
Keeping the mission going is the main priority. There are about 1000 people at Barnes Air National Guard Base, more than half of them are part timers.