Upcoming Meeting, Comments Crucial to Boost MCAS and Joint Strike Fighter

Rallying for the F35-B Joint Strike Fighter and its positive effects on the Beaufort County economy and Marine Corps Air Station, local groups are organizing support for a June 22 public meeting and July 12 deadline for comments on the Navy’s basing decision.

“Bringing five squadrons of F35-B Joint Strike Fighters to Beaufort County will, in addition to the Air Station’s current $615 million annual economic impact, add $300 million in new base construction and potentially bring 200 high-paying civilian jobs to the area,” said Carlotta Ungaro, president of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“To keep the ‘Sound of Freedom’ flying over Lowcountry skies, and to ensure the safety and protection of this great country, we want people to join Operation F35-Beaufort,” Ungaro said.

Tuesday, the Marine Corps and Navy will host a public meeting on the F35-B at Beaufort’s Holiday Inn on Boundary Street from 4-7 p.m. Comments are encouraged and the military will bring an F35-B cockpit simulator as an added attraction.

The Navy’s preliminary recommendation is to base three operational squadrons and two training squadrons at MCAS-Beaufort. The Chamber of Commerce supports this recommendation and believes it will have the greatest economic impact on the area.

After the June 22 meeting and when public comment closes July 12, the Navy will review data and is scheduled to announce a final decision in December on where to base the East Coast Joint Strike Fighters.

The other base vying for the new stealth strike fighters is Cherry Point, NC. The Navy’s primary scenario is to send eight operational squadrons there.

“As a native Beaufortonian, I’m proud of our city’s long history of supporting the military,” said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling. “The Joint Strike Fighter is the next step to ensuring the Air Station’s continued role as a centerpiece of the East Coast military.

“What’s good for Beaufort is good for America – and the Joint Strike Fighter is good for us,” he said.

The decision to base five squadrons in Beaufort will lead to an additional $300 million investment in infrastructure at the Beaufort Air Station and enhances the base’s position through future base closure reviews.

In addition to the Air Station’s exceptional training areas offshore and the Townsend Bombing Range in Georgia, the region has a highly qualified workforce made up of former military personnel, said Kim Statler, executive director of the Lowcountry Economic Network & Alliance.

The arrival of the F35-B Joint Strike Fighter will help with recruiting new industry to our region while bolstering existing businesses that focus on technology, aeronautics and defense, Statler said. The jets are expected to arrive in 2014, replacing the F/A-18 Hornets.

How can you help?

Voice your support at a public meeting June 22 from 4-7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Boundary Street in Beaufort.

Also, comments are accepted through July 12, 2010, by visiting www.usmcjsfeast.com/Comments. Or, you can write and mail your support by July 12 to: USMC F-35B East Coast Basing EIS, P.O. Box 56488, Jacksonville, FL 32241-6488.

For more information about the Joint Strike Fighter coming to Beaufort, visit www.f35beaufort.com.


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