Westover to lose half of C-5 fleet, cut 300 jobs

A row of C-5 Galaxy aircraft line the flight line at Westover Air Force Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass. on June 7, 2013. Westover is the nation's largest Air Force Reserve base, and is home to the Air Force's largest cargo aircraft, the C-5 Galaxy. (U.S. Air Force photo/SrA. Kelly Galloway)

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – More than 300 jobs will be cut at Westover Air Reserve Base, as half of the base’s fleet of C-5 aircraft is moving from western Massachusetts to Texas.

The base made the announcement in a news release sent to 22News Monday morning.

8 of the base’s 16 C-5 aircraft will be moved from Westover to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, beginning next year. The losses at Westover include some 59 full-time enlisted airmen and 275 drilling reservists. 334 positions will be lost.

“We will lose 334 positions and try to keep as many people as we can,” said Brigadier General Steven Vautrain.

During a news conference at the base Monday afternoon, Brigadier General Steven Vautrain, the 439th Airlift Wing Commander, said that the job losses would begin in October of next year.

“We’re not the only base that’s going through this. Some bases are losing all their airplanes being closed, and that’s not Westover, we’re going to remain here, we’ll keep doing our mission, it’ll just be a bit smaller,” Vautrain added.

Part of the plan is to upgrade the entire fleet of C-5’s, including the 8 remaining at Westover, to C-5M models, a process that will begin next year, but will not be complete until 2018.

The move had been suggested by the Pentagon more than a year ago, as they deal with a required $487 billion in budget cuts over the next eight years. As recently as Sunday, however, Congressman Richard Neal (D-Springfield) said that the proposal was still pending, and not yet a done deal.

Vautrain said that they will do everything they can to help those impacted by these cuts. “These changes affect the core of our mission here- our dedicated men and women. These reductions will incur hardships on our people,” Vautrain said. “We will take care of our people; we will place as many as possible in other positions within the wing, and programs will be available to assist those displaced by this change in force structure. We will continue to fulfill our global mobility mission before, during, and after these changes.”

In a statement sent to 22News, Mayor Richard Kos said that the long period of time between now and when the cuts are planned to take place could mean that there is opportunity for the city to make adjustments.

“While the nature of the cuts are disheartening, knowing they will not take place until October of 2015 provides an opportunity for the City to work with both State and Federal officials to address their impact. We will work with Congressman Neal and our State delegation to pursue all options available for Chicopee and Westover,” Kos said.

Congressman Richard Neal talked to 22News over the phone today who says nothing is a done deal yet.

“They are still subject to review and amendment and change in forecast. So, while I understand the announcement from the Air Force not to miss the point that there is time for the entire Mass Congressional district to analyze what these proposals mean,” Congressman Neal said.

Base employees have been notified cuts are coming.

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