Air Force, National Guard tour Selfridge for F-35 consideration

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published July 12, 2017

 Rendering with the F-35.

Rendering with the F-35.

File photo by Deb Jacques

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — The search for a permanent home for the F-35 Lightning II gained some momentum with a recent visit to Selfridge Air National Guard Base by members of the U.S. Air Force and National Guard.

Brig. Gen. John Slocum, commander of the 127th Wing at Selfridge, said 37 members of the military toured the base July 11-13, collecting pertinent data that will help officials come to their final decision.

“They’re here to check out Selfridge, collect information about our base and about our people,” Slocum said. “They’ll look at everything — our hangars, maintenance facility, supplies, vehicles, communications — and take a trip up to Alpena to see the training facility.”

The U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force announced in late 2016 that Selfridge could be named one of two U.S. bases that could house the new F-35 fighter jet. Selfridge is one of five bases being considered.

Other bases under consideration include Truax Air Guard Station in Madison, Wisconsin; Jacksonville Air Guard Station in Jacksonville, Florida; Gowen Field Air Guard Station in Boise, Idaho; and Dannelly Field Air Guard Station in Montgomery, Alabama. If Selfridge is chosen, Slocum said as many as 18 F-35s could arrive in the early to mid-2020s, replacing the A-10.

Slocum said the secretary of defense will make the final decision, a decision that will be announced “sometime this summer.”

If the base is chosen, it would be positive for not just Macomb County, but for the entire state of Michigan, Slocum said. He said the addition of the F-35 would help secure the posts of approximately 1,850 National Guard troops in the 127th Wing, which in 2014 added more than $800 million to the local economy.

“It would secure the future of Selfridge for the next 30 years, for the next 100 years,” the general said. “It would be awesome to (be chosen) and be on the leading edge of our nation’s defense.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel has actively voiced his support for the F-35, speaking statewide (at the Mackinac Policy Conference in May), as well as at local press conferences about what it would mean for the base and the local economy.

“We have a chance right now to solidify this base and its existence for the next generation to come,” Hackel has said. “For the next 30 years, we will not have to talk about base realignment or closures out here at Selfridge.”

An advocacy effort was launched in February to garner statewide interest and support to help Selfridge and the county promote the base for the F-35. Through the website MIF35.org, there are regular updates about the status of the F-35, as well as features and highlights focusing on the benefits that Selfridge and the community would realize if the base is able to secure the arrival of this fifth-generation fighter.

Selfridge Air National Guard Base is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with an array of events and announcements leading up to this year’s Open House and Air Show slated for Aug. 19-20, which will feature the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team.

Selfridge was established on July 1, 1917, as America prepared to enter World War I. Since then, thousands of airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Homeland Security agents and other public servants have been assigned to the base.

The main aircraft at the base include the KC-135 Stratotanker, also known as the “flying gas station,” and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The base has earned numerous awards, including most recently the Meritorious Unit Award from the U.S. Air Force, as well as the Carl A. Spaatz Trophy as the top National Guard flying unit in the nation in 2016.