BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins described the work done by the Airbridge program at the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing as “absolutely essential” and that the MAINEiacs carry out the task better than anyone else.
“This base does a better job, is more cost-effective than any other base,” she said during a visit to the unit Friday morning was prompted by news this week that the Pentagon may reduce the 101st’s mission. She said also the Airbridge program is “essential to the war effort” and homeland security, and its strategic location saves the taxpayers money.
Collins and Gov. John Baldacci visited the air base Friday to be briefed by Wing commander Col. John D’Errico, Lt. Col. William “Scott” Reynolds and others on the Airbridge program’s operations.
“It’s mind-boggling” that the government is even considering cutting back the program, Baldacci said.
The Airbridge’s mission is to fuel in-flight cargo planes, fighter jets and other aircraft bound for military bases in Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, and to assist with medical evacuations and other flights returning to American soil.
The Bangor base has handed or scheduled 38 air and ground refueling missions this week and in the last year refueled more than 1,100 aircraft.
After hearing the news of the cutbacks being considered, Collins contacted Erin Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force.
“The undersecretary has assured me they are going to re-evaluate” their decision, she said. “We’ve been able to secure funding through the end of the month” and will find out in the next two weeks the fate of the Airbridge program.