- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

ENID, Okla. (AP) - Despite the fact the Air Force currently has the smallest force in its history, the wing commander at Vance Air Force Base says he expects no significant changes in the number of pilots trained here.

Col. Clark Quinn, who took over as commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing in June, spoke to Enid Noon AMBUCS this month at the Gantz Center on the Northern Oklahoma College Enid campus.

Due to defense budget cuts, the Air Force has implemented force management programs that, through airmen leaving the service both voluntarily and involuntarily, has cut the Air Force to approximately 310,000 active-duty airmen. However, Quinn doesn’t foresee that having any significant impact on the flying training mission at Vance, the Enid News and Eagle (https://bit.ly/1yPu7fI ) reported.

“The next year, or into ‘16, I don’t think the overall number of pilots trained at Vance is going to go up or down by more than a couple of percent,” Quinn said. “It might change 5 percent, it might even change 10 percent, but the overall process, I don’t see any significant changes.”

Vance currently graduates more than 300 pilots per year, around 30 of which are international students. Vance pilots fly 50,000 sorties per year, for a total of some 70,000 flying hours.

One significant construction project will begin at Vance in 2015, Quinn told the group, while another is expected to conclude.

The new $10.7 million control tower, a project under construction since the summer of 2012, is expected to open in the spring of 2015, Quinn said.

“That will be a significant upgrade and is definitely needed,” he said. “The current one is small enough that there are some parts of the field you can’t actually see.”

The new tower will be taller and larger than the present tower, which was completed in 1972. The new tower’s cab floor will be 96 feet above ground level, compared to 63 feet for the current tower. The new tower will be 6,665 square feet, compared to just 2,294 for the old one.

In late 2015, the resurfacing of Vance’s outside runway and taxiways will begin. That $30 million project will take about a year to complete and primarily will impact training in the T-38, the aircraft that uses that runway most. However, by then the project to lengthen the runway at Enid Woodring Regional Airport should be completed, and the longer runway will allow T-38s to land and take off at Woodring.

“It works out perfectly because that runway (Woodring) will be finished at about the time that this one is taken out of service,” Quinn said. “I’m not saying that we’re going to transfer all of our operations to Woodring, but it allows us an opportunity to land a plane there if a need arises.”

Quinn highlighted some of the awards Vance has earned in the past year, including the Altus Trophy, awarded annually to the city having the best relationship with an Air Education and Training Command base.

“The relationship between Vance and Enid is incredibly strong,” Quinn said.

Vance recently received an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period from July 1, 2012, to June 30 of this year.

“I was here for 18 days of it,” Quinn joked, “so I’m counting myself in.”

In addition, the Vance Clinic recently was named best clinic in AETC.

“That is a good win for them,” he said.

He also briefed the AMBUCS on the base’s Honorary Commander Program, under which community leaders are chosen as honorary commanders of Vance squadrons in order that they gain a greater understanding of the wing’s mission.

Quinn likewise highlighted the Vance Key Spouse program, which involves 39 key spouses supporting 14 squadrons. Key Spouses fill a number of roles, including supporting families of deployed airmen and welcoming new members of Team Vance and helping ease the transition to living in Enid. Three of the last five AETC Key Spouse of the Year award winners have been from Vance.


Information from: Enid News & Eagle, https://www.enidnews.com

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