By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Those taking part in the annual Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce trip to Washington, D.C., spent Tuesday telling the story of Vance Air Force Base in the halls of the Pentagon.
But one official they visited needed no briefing on Enid or Vance. Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, earned his wings at Vance in 1980, and then spent time at the base as a first assignment instructor pilot and flight examiner in the T-38A. In addition, he met his future wife here.
“It’s nice to have someone who understands Vance,” said Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison. “He knows as much about Vance and Enid as we do.”
Gorenc told the Enid delegation that, due to budget constraints, the Air Force currently has 25-30 percent excess infrastructure.
“He told us the thing we need to concentrate on is runways, airspace and infrastructure,” said Cooper. “That was music to our ears. In Enid we are paying attention to all the right things.”
The local delegation also met with Timothy Bridges, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, as well as Edward Chupein, Air Force chief of ranges and airspace.
It was the group’s first meeting with Bridges, who is new to his position.
“We showed him the things Enid, the state of Oklahoma and our congressional delegation are doing to protect and enhance Vance Air Force Base,” said Cooper. “What we are doing to increase their mission capabilities and help them reduce costs.”
The group told Pentagon officials about the joint-use hangar at Enid Woodring Regional Airport that opened in March 2012 and can house both civilian and military aircraft, plus the plans to lengthen Woodring’s main runway to 8,000 feet, so it will accommodate T-38s from Vance.
Bridges was shown a 1995 aerial photo of Vance, compared to a current picture of the base.
“We were able to show him over the years what we have done,” said Cooper, which included the base’s new gates, the Armed Forces Reserve Center and the improvements to Wheat Capital Road south of the base.
“We gave land, built a road, built a redundant water line,” Cooper said. “We showed him the cooperative effort.”
Chupein briefed the Enid group on the future of pilot training.
“It is very robust,” Cooper said. “There is a great need for pilots. That’s good for Vance.”
Chupein praised Oklahoma’s “Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act,” passed and signed into law in 2010, that adds protection from encroachment for military and civilian airspace in the state.
“He said our legislation has a lot of teeth in it, it has meaning,” said Cooper. “He is trying to push that type of legislation for other states.”
Cooper characterized Tuesday’s meetings as positive.
“In Enid, we are paying attention to all the right things,” he said.
After hosting a Tuesday night reception for Pentagon leaders, including Kathleen Ferguson, acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, the group is scheduled to meet today with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Jim Inhofe and freshman 1st District Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, a new member of the House Armed Services Committee.