Barksdale airmen prepare for the end of the A-10 mission - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Barksdale airmen prepare for the end of the A-10 mission

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Cheers and hugs greeted dozens of airmen with the 917th Fighter Group who recently returned to Barksdale Air Force Base after a two-month deployment to Afghanistan.

It's a homecoming that could be the last for the unit. The 917th is slated to be disbanded after the Air Force recommended transferring all of the A-10 aircraft from Barksdale at the end of fiscal year 2013. 

Senior Master Sergeant Bernard Woods has been with the unit for 25 years. He says he is proud of the work the A-10's have done on the battlefield. "Whenever they needed our help they would call and we would get the airplanes airborne and we would save lives," said Woods.

Woods and his wife Doris are well aware the 917th is on the chopping block.

"I am not too thrilled about it," said Doris Woods. "I am not looking forward because i am settled here and like I said I enjoy my church family. That's the main thing. We have an awesome church."

That church and her friends will be left behind. Doris Woods is not the only person who see their days numbered here.

"The unknown of not knowing when if where that's the difficult part but part of marrying a military man you know it's an option," said Patricia Thornton. She is the wife of 25 year veteran Senior Master Sergeant Michael Thornton. Patricia says the slated disbanding of the 917th makes her think of her children that she will leave behind.

"It's going to be hard to leave," said Thornton. "Our children are here, raised grown and married, but it's what the government wants. It is what we need to do."

917th Fighter Group Commander Colonel John Breazeale said it is always tough to close a unit. Bearzeale marvels over the past accomplishments of the A-10's in the wars in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.

"The A-10 brings a feeling of fear to the enemy, said Breazeale."

Former 917th commander General Jack Ihle said the A-10 is still needed at Barksdale and that it's loss will be felt. "It's pretty significant the economic impact of the 917 fighter group is over 30 million dollars a year," said Ihle.

Ihle said losing the A-10's also means the end of its joint training mission with Fort Polk that prepares our forces for deployment.

Some 600 jobs are expected to be lost or transferred to other units.

Congressman John Fleming, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is hoping that the A-10's will stay at Barksdale. He said we will know for sure after this fall's elections.

In the meantime, the airmen and their families can only go by the unofficial word that the unit will close.

"We'll see how it turns out we'll see how it turns out," said Senior Master Sergeant Thornton. "Of course we would like to stay, but it is what it is."

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