Thursday, January 22, 2009
Aircraft parking on the ramp at McConnell Air Force Base is getting tighter these days with the addition of 25 aircraft over the next couple of months. The Base Realignment and Closure process continues to make personnel and aircraft transfers to McConnell and along with those transfers, the base's impact on the local economy will change as well.
Since October, more and more servicemembers and their families, as well as civilian counterparts, are using McConnell AFB and its surrounding communities as their home addresses. Once all of the BRAC positions have been filled, McConnell will have gained more than 640 military members from various other bases.
Col. Michael Dillard, 22nd Maintenance Group commander, spoke with many of the members who have recently relocated here because of the BRAC realignment.
"McConnell and the support the base receives from the surrounding communities are much more than the new Airmen had expected. They are especially pleased with the price of housing, the recreation, and the educational opportunities," said Colonel Dillard.
Many of those arriving have spouses who will also be looking for employment outside the base, thus bringing more workers to the area.
According to Capt. Willie Cooper, 22nd Force Support Squadron operations officer, McConnell will continue to welcome new members and their families associated with BRAC, with the last group scheduled to arrive by October 2011.
The economic impact of the personnel movements to Wichita and the smaller towns will become more evident in the next year. The additional people bring with them increased requirements for child care, restaurants, health care and other service-industry needs.
In fiscal year 2008, Team McConnell, including the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, 184th Intelligence Wing and 931st Air Refueling Group, earned approximately $227.5 million in military and civilian payroll for use in the local area. Team McConnell is unique in that they are considered the only "Total Force" base in the Air Force, housing active-duty, National Guard, and Reserve members on the same base.
Another measure of economic significance is the number of indirect jobs created. These are additional retail, service, wholesale and construction jobs that exist in the community because of the base. An estimated 2,051 of these secondary jobs were sustained in fiscal year 2008, generating an additional $63.3 million in indirect payroll earnings.
An additional $98.6 million was spent for base operations support, military construction, and health care. The total economic impact of Team McConnell on the local economy was $408.8 million dollars. Those numbers are expected to grow with the welcoming of additional military, civilian and family members.
Along with the arrival of more people, additional KC-135 Refuelers will be calling McConnell home. Lt. Col. Michael Novotny, 22nd Maintenance Group deputy commander, explains that McConnell has gained nine tankers since November. Four of these aircraft transferred directly to the 22nd ARW, the remaining five will arrive after inspection and repair at Programmed Depot Maintenance.
"We will ultimately gain 25 aircraft from other bases, and will transfer out five that we currently posses. We will end up with a net gain of 20 aircraft for McConnell," Colonel Novotny said. "The last BRAC related tanker is scheduled to arrive in August 2009. It will raise the total aircraft assigned to McConnell to 60 KC-135 Tankers."
Ultimately, the increase in McConnell's tanker fleet will make it the largest tanker base in the world.
The BRAC decision to move aircraft and manpower to McConnell brings many added bonuses to the already existing community. The ties that bind McConnell AFB to Wichita and the surrounding areas will be flexed and strengthened with their growing Air Force family, bringing more people and more Airpower to the 'Air Capital of the World' in the coming years.