Westover cuts could affect regional economy

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)

LEEDS, Mass. (WWLP) – Cuts at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee could have economic impacts that reach into Hampshire County.

Soldier On, the Leeds based organization that helps homeless and unemployed veterans told 22News the layoffs mean they’ll have to help more people.

It’s the result of half a trillion dollars in defense cuts over the next eight years.

“You see the real tangible effects of that when it happens in your community,” said Patrick Prendergast of Northampton.

In late 2015, Westover’s C-5 cargo plane fleet will be cut in half.

What upsets me is that half of them are going to go to Texas which is the home of all the political military defense lobbying. It’s too bad they can’t simply keep them here,” said U.S. Army Veteran Alan Irvine.

The move means 300 jobs will be lost.

Soldier On told 22News their mission now is to identify those Westover employees most at risk of losing their job, and to make them aware of the benefits and services available to them.

Jack Downing is the President & CEO of Solider On. He told 22News, “All this is going to do is increase the body of people we have to serve. It’ll have a tremendous negative impact on the economy here in western Mass. not just because we lose the 300 paychecks every week, but there’s a tremendous amount of work that comes off those planes that gets done in western Mass. shops.”

People in Hampshire County told 22News the economic effect of the cuts will be a tough pill to swallow.

Karen Klinger of Easthampton told 22News, “The domino effect of cuts on local business and families in the area is difficult.”

Base leaders say they’re confident they’ll still be able to carry out about 100 C-5 missions each year.

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