WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As the Barnes Air National Guard mourns the loss of one of their own, the whole City of Westfield mourns for them as well.
“They are definitely an integral part of the City of Westfield and part of our family. Our heart goes out to them right now,” said Joe Mitchell, the Director of Business Development in Westfield.
The mission of the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard is to defend the skies over New England. It’s a duty that garners respect and pride from their host City of Westfield; which enjoys a significant economic impact.
“Their contribution to the local economy is 1,700 direct and indirect jobs as well as roughly 126 million dollars a year to Westfield and the region,” said Mitchell.
It goes beyond the dollar signs as well. Many members of the 104th Fighter Wing make Westfield what it is. Air Force bases typically are like small cities.
Men and women and their families work, eat, shop and workout all on base, but one of the unique things about guard units like this one is that while the work may happen at Barnes, families make the rest of their lives in Westfield and across western Massachusetts.
Brian Barnes, the Manager of the Westfield-Barnes Airport, told 22News, “They are the coaches of your kids little league team, softball teams, in Sunday school. In all the community activities they’re in and around. It makes that very special and the bond there is very unique.”
Barnes added that without the 104th, the airport wouldn’t be what it is. Just this year a 21 million dollar runway was completed, thanks to the partnership between the guard and local, state, and the federal government.