Aug 22, 201912:53 PMOpen Mic
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Duty first: F-35 jets at Truax Field
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Over the past few weeks there have been news articles concerning the draft report from the Air Force pertaining to proposed basing of F-35 jets at Madison’s Truax Field. The point of most contention has been with the noise level of the aircraft in certain areas nearest to the airport. While it is an issue that needs to be discussed, it also has to be placed in the larger context given the world in which we live. There is a reasoned purpose the jets are needed, and the pilots trained.
Earlier this year, I had a nice conversation with a young man working for a local tech company. He lives in my neighborhood, is friendly and conversant, and given that the Madison isthmus bubbles with politics, we were soon covering all the issues. One of the topics we landed upon was the appropriateness of F-35’s flying in and out of Truax.
He was definitely opposed to the idea of military aircraft having a continuing presence in Madison. Since he had grown up in another state, I mentioned Truax, for many decades, has been a site for military preparedness. He was a bit caught off guard by that fact, replying that Truax sure did not feel like an active military facility.
And therein lies one of the truths as Madison and Dane County moves forward in our conversations about the F-35 jets. The military presence at Truax has proven to be a good neighbor for over 70 years. Currently, the 115 Fighter Wing flies F-16 jets, but those are to be replaced with 20 F-35 jets.
Since late 2017, there has been a constant refrain, from some, that Truax should not be home to the F-35s. If one digs a bit deeper into the mindset of some opponents, it is soon discovered a strong antagonism exists about the military and some of the policies of our nation. As we move nearer the date in early 2020 when a final decision will be made about these jets in Madison, it will surely feel as if we are in the vortex of a political storm, and that is a sad place to find ourselves.
After all, this area is filled with civic-minded people who care about current events. We are most fortunate to have UW–Madison in our midst. Most of us have talked or become friends with people from another country. The dinner table at my home has had guests from Pakistan, Iraq, and Turkey to name but three. The dialogues we all have in this regard help to underscore our nation’s role and responsibility in the complex mix of international relations.
There has been strong bipartisan backing for the F-35 jets from our state’s congressional delegation, and vigorous backing from the local business community. The choice of Madison, out of five Air National Guard base finalists, took years to bring to fruition, and underscores the importance this selection is to our region. I like to have a fast lunch at Hy-Vee on the east side of Madison. Each time, I see a number of military personnel wearing a uniform while spending money, which is a solid example why this fighter wing is a smart economic decision.
I am never sure if the average person in Madison knows the amount of money to the local economy that comes from Truax. This unit employs 1,200 men and women. Nearly 500 of them are full-time employees, while 700 are traditional guardsmen. The end result is a payroll of $62 million being pumped annually into our housing, auto, and so many other brick-and-mortar businesses. Those who calculate such numbers have placed the economic impact into this region at $100 million. Obviously, no elected official is going to spit on that powerhouse to our economy.