General Mitchell Air Reserve Station
Air Force Reserve units have been flying from what was then called General Mitchell field since 1952. The 440th Airlift Wing has a long tradition of service and award winning excellence and traces its heritage back to W.W.II. The original 440th was a Troop Carrier Group, established in June of 1943. After a year of flying training and preparations for duty overseas, the unit began operations on the 6th of June 1944: D-Day.
Using C-47 "Skytrains", and CG-4A "Hadrians" the 440th flew paratroop drop and glider missions during the first critical days of the Normandy Invasion. For this, the 440th TCG earned the Distinguished Unit Citation. It went on to participate in the invasion of Southern France, the Market Garden missions into Holland, the re-supply of the trapped 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge, and the crossing of the Rhine in March of 1945, earning seven Bronze Battle Stars in the process.
Established as a Reserve unit in 1949, the 440th moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul where it assumed the airlift mission until 1 May 1951, when it was activated for the Korean War. Three days later it was decided to use the personnel assigned to the 440th to supplement other Troop Carrier Wings and the unit was inactivated. After the Korean War the 440th was reactivated as a Fighter-Bomber Wing at Minneapolis-St. Paul, and re-equipped with F-80, and T-33 jet aircraft. It performed this role until 1957, when it recaptured the airlift mission and was re-designated the 440th Troop Carrier Wing and transferred to its present home at General Mitchell International Airport-Air Reserve Station, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
General Mitchell International Airport is a medium-hub airport owned and operated by Milwaukee County. Mitchell's 14 airlines offer roughly 200 daily departures (plus 200 daily arrivals). Approximately 90 cities are served nonstop or direct from Mitchell International. It is the largest airport in Wisconsin.
General William "Billy" Mitchell, for whom Milwaukee County's airport is named, was born to a prominent Milwaukee family on December 29, 1879. His father, John Lendrum Mitchell, who eventually became a United States Senator for Wisconsin, was an only child to millionaire Milwaukee banker and railroad tycoon Alexander Mitchell.
At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Billy Mitchell returned to Milwaukee from what is now known as Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. to enlist. Mitchell quickly rose through the ranks in the Signal Corps and in 1912 was appointed to the General Staff, the youngest person at that time to hold such a position.
In 1916, when Europe was on the verge of the first World War, Mitchell recognized the increasing importance of aviation in war and took it upon himself to learn to fly at his own expense. Mitchell was promoted to Major and appointed the head of the Army's aviation section. He was then sent to Europe, where he became a leader in establishing a United States aviation force. Mitchell was promoted again, this time to the rank of Colonel, and was appointed Chief of Air Service of the First Army. In the Battle of St. Mihiel, he was given command of more than 1,500 British, French, and American aircraft units. This was the largest air force ever assembled to that date. For Mitchell's action, he was promoted to Brigadier General and made Chief of Air Service of the Group of Armies, the top aviation command.
Returning to the United States in 1919, Mitchell was appointed Director of Military Aeronautics. He vigorously began promoting aviation, planning the building of a strong air force and fostering the budding aircraft industry to establish commercial aviation on a sound footing. But his opponents were not in sympathy with his efforts. His claims of air superiority over the sea led to a confrontation with the U.S. Navy. In July, 1921, in a test bombing of German warships, Mitchell proved his point when his men sank a battleship.
Inevitably, Mitchell's forceful promotion of his ideas led to a clash with the traditional forces. As his opposition grew stronger, Mitchell became more outspoken in his criticism. Finally in September 1925, he charged the administration with neglecting the national defense. He was tried by court-martial and found guilty of insubordination. He resigned from the service February 1, 1926, but his influence lived on as he carried his case to the people. He continued his work incessantly until his untimely death in February 1936.
On October 5, 1926, the Milwaukee County Board approved the $150,000 purchase of a new airport facility. The land was owned by Thomas Hamilton, a local aviator who operated a propeller manufacturing business and small airport. Soon after the Hamilton land purchase, aviation activity at the Currie Park site ceased and was transferred to the new location. The first airport terminal, the Hirschbuehl Farmhouse, opened on the Hamilton Airport site in July of 1927. That same month Northwest Airlines, Inc., initiated air service from Milwaukee to Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul. World-famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh visited the Milwaukee airport on August 20, 1927.
During the late depression years (from 1938 to July, 1940), a new two-story terminal building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1941, the name of the Milwaukee County Airport was changed to "General Mitchell Field" after Milwaukee's military advocate, Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell.
Shortly after the completion of the first terminal and through the early 1950's, the Mitchell Field airport experienced growth in the number of flight operations, including the large propeller-driven StratoCruisers and Constellations. On June 19, 1986, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors officially renamed the airport "General Mitchell International Airport," also reflecting the presence of United States Customs at the airport.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: Realign Key Field Air Guard Station, MS. It would distribute the 186th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135R aircraft to the 128th Air Refueling Wing (ANG), General Mitchell Air Guard Station, WI (three aircraft).
In another recommendation, DoD recommended to close General Mitchell Air Reserve Station (ARS). This recommendation would distribute the eight C-130H aircraft of the 440th Airlift Wing to the 94th Airlift Wing (AFR), Dobbins Air Reserve Base (ARB), GA (four aircraft) and to the 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, AR (four aircraft). It would also realign the 440th Airlift Wing's operations, maintenance and Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) manpower to Fort Bragg, NC. Air National Guard units at Mitchell would be unaffected by this recommendation.
The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $38.4M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $14.3M. Annual recurring savings after implementation would be $6.5M, with payback expected in five years. The net present value of the cost and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $50.2M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 617 jobs (346 direct jobs and 271 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI, Metropolitan Statistical economic area, which is less than 0.1 percent of economic area employment. Environmentally, there would be potential impacts to air quality; cultural, archeological, or tribal resources; land use constraints or sensitive resource areas; noise; threatened and endangered species or critical habitat; waste management; water resources; and wetlands that might need to be considered during the implementation of this recommendation. Impacts of costs would include $0.4M in costs for environmental compliance and waste management.
Secretary of Defense Justification: General Mitchell (86) ranked higher in military value rating for the tanker mission than Key Field (92). The remainder of Key Field's realigned aircraft would help to increase the squadron size at General Mitchell and maintain critical backup aircraft inventory levels. General Mitchell would gain additional KC-135 aircraft to its maximum available capacity, increasing both effectiveness and unit capability.
The second recommendation would distribute C-130 aircraft to two bases of higher military value, Little Rock AFB (17) and Dobbins ARB (71). Adding aircraft at Little Rock and Dobbins optimizes squadron size, creating larger, more effective squadrons. Additionally, these transfers move C-130 force structure from the Air Force Reserve to the active duty, addressing a documented imbalance in the active/Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve manning mix for C-130s.
Community Concerns: The community believes that the recommendation to close General Mitchell ARS is unjustified. The community asserted that the Air Force's use of the recommendation to recapitalize its C-130 fleet was outside the scope of BRAC and would leave no strategic Air Force Reserve presence in the Milwaukee/Chicago area. The community contended that relocating the 440th Airlift Wing would have a negative impact on recruitment and retention, citing a direct correlation between proximity to the vast industrial local labor pool and the base's ability to attract and retain experienced personnel. Citizens also noted that closure of General Mitchell ARS would result in the loss of thousands of flying hours and years of technical experience, jeopardizing a level of combat readiness difficult to reproduce elsewhere. Further, the community contended that MCI formulas were inherently biased against smaller bases and that General Mitchell's MCI score was improperly computed. According to the community, General Mitchell ARS should have received an Airlift MCI score better than that of two bases that were not on DoD's list of realignments and closures. Finally, the community asserted General Mitchell ARS was more cost efficient than the three bases slated to receive Mitchell's manpower or assets and that its depot level maintenance alone saved the Air Force $1.14 million.
Commission Findings: The Commission found that though the Mission Compatibility Index (MCI) tool did not accurately capture all aspects of the base's military value and may appear to have favored larger bases, it appears to have been applied consistently. Regarding Mitchell's Airlift MCI score, the Commission verified that there was in fact a calculation error for the formula assessing the quality of an installation's pavement. Even after correcting the error, however, the base still ranked as one of two of the lowest scoring Air Force Reserve bases, according to the Air Force. The Commission found this recommendation supportable. The Commission established C-130 wings at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia and Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. This recommendation is consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Laydown plan.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criterion 1, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Close General Mitchell Air Reserve Station (ARS). Distribute the 440th Airlift Wing's C-130H aircraft to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
Establish the following C-130H PAA:
The 94th Airlift Wing (AFR), Dobbins Air Reserve Base (ARB), GA (8 PAA C-130H);
The Air Force Reserve/Active Duty unit (designation to be determined) at Pope Army Airfield, NC (16 PAA C-130H).
Realign the 440th Airlift Wing's operations, maintenance and Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) manpower to Pope Army Airfield, NC. Air National Guard units at Mitchell are unaffected by this recommendation.
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.
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