Retired Air Force pilot pushes for A-10's security at D-M - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Retired Air Force pilot pushes for A-10's security at D-M

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A U.S. House vote that keeps the A-10 aircraft mission funded at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base has bought some time for lawmakers to determine its future.

Meantime, supporters of the A-10 said the plane is crucial in protecting troops and bases in the U.S. and abroad.

"The A-10 is a close-air support platform and it is in fact, the best close-air support cast platform in the history of aviation," said Robin Stoddard, a 30-year veteran of the Air Force and retired pilot currently contracted as an A-10 instructor at D-M.

For now, D-M's signature mission remains secure. Late Friday, the House voted 300-114 to approve an amendment that stops the Pentagon from spending money to "divest, retire, transfer or place in storage, or prepare to divest, retire, transfer of place in storage any A-10 aircraft" through fiscal year 2015.

The amendment was added into a $570 billion House defense appropriations bill that was approved Friday. The Senate has yet to draft its version of the bill.

Automatic spending cuts have forced the government to bring up talks in possibly retiring the A-10, with backers seeing this as a cost-saving reduction.

Stoddard, however, said the fleet is the most cost-effective in protecting ground troops as well as among the most effective.

"We already saw the drastic consequences of using a B-1 for close-air support. Five friendlies dead a few days ago. That's a tragedy that could have been entirely prevented, if the A-10 was overhead," Stoddard said.

In April, D-M released its latest economic impact analysis from 2013, which revealed a $1.47 billion impact in the local area due to D-M and its retirees. The report also showed D-M helped create more than 4,400 jobs in the Tucson area.

Businesses along Craycroft Road near the base want to see D-M stay strong through its A-10 mission, like the Mardon Company, a shop that makes military name tags and accessories.

Up to ten percent of Mardon's business comes from D-M, according to store manager Tony Shields. While the economic impact of potentially losing the A-10 is not as heavy for his business, Shields said he, too, is concerned about security for service members.

"We got a lot of troops out there and they depend on the A-10," Shields said.

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