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Backers to make final plea today as BRAC tours HAFB

Briefing could put base in a position to gain more jobs

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Utah's decades-long courtship with the Base Realignment and Closure Commission may finally be over.

In fact, today's soiree may just be a formality.

Hill Air Force Base backers will plead their case once and for all today, when BRAC commissioners are expected to take a tour of the state's largest military installation.

The state's local and federal leaders and the Utah Defense Alliance have guarded Utah's military installations from the threat of closure since the BRAC commission's inception in 1988.

Hill escaped the four previous BRAC rounds with little damage, and the Pentagon's recommendation this year proposed a net loss of 145 jobs at the base.

"Apocalypse was closure; anything short of that is a success from our standpoint," said Vickie McCall, president of the Utah Defense Alliance. "We did not lose the jobs that we really had concern over, and we're very, very thankful to be in the position that we're in."

Now Hill is in a position to gain more jobs.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said he plans to show BRAC commissioners just how strong the base is by showing off several locations on the base. Commissioners Jim Hansen, the former Utah congressman; Lloyd "Fig" Newton, a retired Air Force general; and Philip Coyle are expected to tour the base, Hill spokeswoman Marilu Trainor said.

After a morning briefing with Hill staff, commissioners are expected to take a stroll through both the Ogden Air Logistics Center's F-16 and A-10 maintenance lines as well as the landing gear facility, Trainor said.

The commissioners are also expected to meet with leadership from the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing as well as the reserve 419th Fighter Wing. Both wings could possibly be affected by the Pentagon's recommendations to the BRAC commission.

"We are supporting the commission's request and are prepared to explain the missions of the Ogden Air Logistics Center, the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings and our other associate organizations," said Maj. Gen. Kevin J. Sullivan, Hill's senior military leader and commander of the Ogden ALC. "We will address any issues or questions the commissioners may ask and clarify any information they need about the data submitted earlier by Hill's organizations."

The Pentagon ranked the base 14th out of 154 Air Force facilities in the ability to host fighter missions.

Bishop said Hill backers' strategy Monday is to reinforce the Pentagon's recommenda- tions to the BRAC commission.

"I think the military really saw the value that we have here, and it was clear in what we could be receiving," Bishop said. "The only thing we could do is actually add programs here."

After touring the base, BRAC commissioners will meet at a Layton steakhouse for lunch with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., members of the Utah Defense Alliance, local legislative leaders and Utah's congressional delegation.

"We want to show them what the BRAC report outlined, but in addition we would like to leave them with a better understanding of what our vision for Hill is in the future and that we are capable of taking on new workload," McCall said. "We are a complex military installation. There are opportunities for more joint work."

Bishop said the range is so valuable that it could lure the Department of Defense to award Hill new aircraft like the F-35 or the F-22, "a plane we desperately need," the congressman told the Deseret Morning News.

Originally, BRAC commissioners were scheduled for a short, morning tour of the base. After the tour, BRAC commissioners were supposed to head to Salt Lake City for a regional hearing.

The tight time schedule didn't allow a flyover of the test and training range. But the hearing was later canceled, allowing commissioners to see much more of Hill than originally planned.

"After careful consideration and consultation with the Utah delegation, it was decided that an extended visit with key representatives of the community and a tour of the base would be a superior alternative," to a regional public hearing, BRAC commission chairman Anthony Principi said.

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com