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Pentagon to dissolve Air National Guard squadron at Peterson AFB - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Pentagon to dissolve Air National Guard squadron at Peterson AFB

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PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE -

The sun is setting on the Colorado Air National Guard 200th Airlift Squadron located at Peterson Air Force Base. The Pentagon plans to dissolve the 30 person unit at the end of May.

"It's 30 people that have been dedicated to this job for a long time and a lot of whom recently made life plans to relocate their families here to Colorado Springs to continue wearing the uniform," explained Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Derek Tate.

The 200th is a distinguished fleet, recognized as the Joint Operations Support Airlift Center Unit of the Year for 7 years running. Their missions consist of executive flights for high ranking military officers and members of Congress, as well as transporting secure cargo.  

As a National Guard Unit, the men and women who fly for the 200th are volunteers. Many work privately for commercial airlines but want to continue serving their country. The closure will make that difficult, in part the only other aircraft flown by the Guard in Colorado are F-16's stationed at Buckley Air Force Base. 

Commander Tate explained that it could take years of training for his pilots to learn to fly such a different aircraft.  A more likely option would be to transition into the Air Force Reserves and apply with 302nd Airlift Wing.

"Our members would have to re-interview and re-compete for jobs in that world," said Tate. "That's one possibility that we're exploring, but there's not enough room for all 17 of them."

Another possibility would be to have the pilots apply to be flight instructors at the US Air Force Academy. 

The dissolution of the squadron will reportedly save the Air Force around $10 million over four years. The squadron's two C-21 Learjets, which were purchased during the Reagan administration, would be relocated to other bases under the Joint Operations Support Airlift Center and flow by active duty Air Force pilots.

Lt. Col. Tate said training those pilots will likely cost taxpayers more money than the government hopes to save by consolidating the squadron into another unit.

"One pilot, through pilot training, costs the Air Force about $1 million dollars," he said. "So, that's $17 million just to replace the 17 pilots that we have here."

Leaders at the Colorado National Guard, Governor John Hickenlooper, Congressman Doug Lamborn and other are reportedly working to try and negotiate a last-minute compromise to save the squadron. In the meantime, the pilots and flight crews are preparing for the worst.

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