First Lady Visits Pittsburgh, Greets Service Members at 911th Airlift Wing
The 911th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command has been targeted for closure in 2013, but service members, their families and friends, lawmakers and citizens have been fighting to keep it open.
That wasn't the reason for Michelle Obama's brief visit. The First Lady was in Pittsburgh to attend a couple of Democratic National Committee events Tuesday evening, but Air Force One landed at the 911th, and Mrs. Obama talked with a group of airmen and their families. Senior Airman Tasha Gresco was there with a baby and toddler, both wearing shirts that read, "Save the 911th," though Gresco didn't specifically mention the issue to the First Lady.
"The shirts speak for themselves," said Gresco. "She [Mrs. Obama] said that the Air Force is doing everything they can, so we'll leave that decision in their hands."
The first group to greet Mrs. Obama as she left Air Force One was Senior Airman Domenic Mash, his wife Katlyn and their infant daughter Savannah. The baby was born while Mash was serving in Afghanistan. He said he didn't mention the 911th to the First Lady, but his wife didn't follow suit.
"I mentioned it. I did. Because it's hard. We just moved out here a few months ago. She just wished us the best and, you know, what can you do? It's out of our hands," said Mash.
The Air Force says it wants to close the 911th Airlift Wing because the seven C-130 refueling planes there are among the oldest in the fleet. Military officials say closing the wing would save the Department of Defense $354 million dollars over five years, though opponents of the closure question that estimate.
The closure is part of an effort to cut $8.7 billion. Some 286 bases across the U.S. are expected to have their fleets reduced, but the 911th is the only one facing closure.