Greg Lewis

Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow host community outreach series

May 18, 2015

 

Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow got some good coverage from Thursday’s event at Isaac Taylor Gardens in New Bern. It was the first of five events we are hosting to generate more awareness about ACT and why our local base at MCAS Cherry Point needs your support. Thank you to WCTI-12 and Briana Harper for covering our event and helping spread the word about ACT and everything we are doing to preserve and grow MCAS Cherry Point. There are three more scheduled events.

Tuesday, May 19 from 5:30-7:00pm at Pollocksville Town Park
Thursday, May 21 from 5:30-7:30pm at The Train Depot in Morehead City
Thursday, May 28 from 4:30-6:30pm at Havelock Tourist & Event Center, Havelock

Join us if you can! We need your support!!

>>SEE VIDEO

 

ACT to host Community ACTion Gatherings

April 30, 2015

 
Support Cherry Point - ACT - Allies For Cherry Points Tomorrow

Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow is hosting five Community ACTion Gatherings to find out what’s going on at MCAS Cherry Point and Fleet Readiness Center East. Get valuable insight about future endeavors, including F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and search and rescue “Pedro” units. Learn about the economic impact to our community and everything ACT is doing to preserve and grow MCAS Cherry Point. Your support is critical to the future of our base, so spread the work with friends and colleagues and make plans to attend one of our local events!

May 14 at 5:30pm – 7:30pm at Isaac Taylor Gardens, New Bern*
May 15 at 7:30am – 9:00am at Brantley’s Village Restaurant, Oriental
May 19 at 5:30pm – 7:00pm at Pollocksville Town Park, Pollocksville
May 21 at 5:30pm – 7:30pm at Train Depot, Morehead City
May 28 at 4:30pm – 6:30pm at Havelock Tourist & Event Center, Havelock
*Featuring music by Bryan Mayer, CMT local favorite!

Please RSVP to Mickie Stroud at stroud@alliesforcherrypoint.com or call 252.631.5021 and note which event you plan to attend!

 

Legislators call for halt on funding to decommission Pedro

March 29, 2015

 

CHERRY POINT — A bipartisan group of legislators from North Carolina and Arizona have called for a halt on funding for the decommissioning of the military search-and-rescue helicopter known as Pedro.

The nonprofit organization Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow announced late Friday its support of the latest effort to stave off the end of the Marine Corps’ longstanding program, which also assists in civilian searches and rescues.

A March 25 letter from a bipartisan coalition of North Carolina and Arizona members of the U.S. House, including Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., called for the prohibition on funds that would be used to disband Marine Corps SAR missions and urged that these “vital units” must not be disbanded at least for next fiscal year.

The News-Times obtained a copy of the letter from Rep. Jones’ office Friday. The letter seeks language in the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal 2016 that would prohibit the Marine Corps from divesting anymore aviation SAR units.

USMC has used SAR Units for 56 years

“The Marine Corps has used SAR Units for 56 years to rescue downed pilots and to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement with various SAR missions,” according to the letter, which includes as an example a rescue two weeks ago of a missing kayaker near Cedar Island.

The unit conducts similar missions about 50 times each year, according to the letter. It was also “essential to the humanitarian mission that followed Hurricane Floyd in 1999 when the unit rescued nearly 400 people from flooding,” the letter states.

Marc Finlayson, a consultant who works with the Allies organization, said the North Carolina delegation, and to some degree the Arizona delegation, want questions answered  on how the SARs mission will be accomplished if the Marine Corps’ units are disbanded. The purported cost-savings of the disbanding have yet to be defined, Mr. Finlayson told the News-Times Friday.

“Because they haven’t yet gotten the answers and because the deadline is approaching for the units standing down, the Arizona and North Carolina legislators have asked the defense appropriation leadership to not expend any funds to disband the units until such time as those questions are answered,” Mr. Finlayson said.

He said there was no guarantee the leadership will abide by the request, but it was signed by 11 congressmen in both parties and from the two states.  “I think that kind of request will be heeded; I hope so,” Mr. Finlayson said.

He said the intent is not to supercede a military decision, it’s just to get answers.

“ACT has worked closely with our congressional delegation to bring our concerns about Pedro to the attention of the Pentagon and key House and Senate committees,” Pete Rose, who represents ACT in Washington, DC., said in the Allies’ press release.

Republicans Rep. Jones and Sen. Thom Tillis wrote in January to the Secretary of the Navy about concerns regarding Pedro. In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concern that lifesaving missions in the region might be “compromised” by the duties being transferred from the Marine Corps to the Coast Guard. The letter sought details on the transition plan and cost projections.

“This most recent letter is a clear signal to the Congress and Pentagon that SAR is a core Marine Corps mission that should not be thrown off,” Mr. Rose said.

As first reported in November 2014, Pedro, as the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point search and rescue squadron helicopters are commonly known, is set to be retired from those services in fiscal 2016. Officials say the process will be complete by Oct. 1.

The Marine Corps is cutting two search and rescue aviation units, including Marine Transport Squadron 1 at Cherry Point. In its place, the Marine Corps is to rely on U.S. Coast Guard SAR capabilities out of Elizabeth City.

The Cherry Point squadron and a similar unit at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., are to be disbanded.

“I believe we need to carefully evaluate the full consequences of removing Pedro from the Marine Corps’ capabilities.  ACT is concerned that losing Pedro will end MCAS Cherry Point’s role in SAR without a viable replacement plan,” said ACT President Greg Lewis in the press release.

“If the U.S. Coast Guard was to assume the SAR mission for Eastern North Carolina, the air assets would have to be located outside of the operational training areas for MCAS Cherry Point, and MCB Camp Lejeune. This would result in lengthened response times during critical emergencies, not only for the Marines but also for any Air Force units that Pedro supports in times of emergency,” said Frank Bottorff, Havelock’s city manager and former base commanding officer at MCAS Cherry Point.

“Although Pedro is a vital part of the Marine Corps presence in our region and is greatly valued by our local citizens, the plan to eliminate SAR from MCAS Cherry Point has not been explained or justified to the local community or our elected officials.  ACT feels that the aviation plan does not address several key issues critical to MCAS Cherry Point and their civilian partners throughout the local region,” said James Norment, a member of ACT’s legal and lobbying team.

ACT has urged local governments and interested persons to raise questions about the loss of Pedro.

from Carteret News-Times, March 29, 2015

 

Key US House Members Oppose Disbanding Pedro

March 27, 2015

 
Cherry Point - Pedro Search and Rescue Helicopter

CHERRY POINT, NC: Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow welcomes a Congressional push to protect the Marine Corps search and rescue (SAR) mission from being disbanded. The Marine Corps’ 2015 Aviation Plan called for the phase-out of the local SAR mission, affectionately called Pedro, by the end of 2015, for cost-savings reasons. A March 25 letter from a bipartisan coalition of North Carolina and Arizona members of the US House called for the prohibition on funds that would be used to disband Marine Corps SAR missions. These “vital units” must not be disbanded at least for next fiscal year, the letter concluded.

“ACT has worked closely with our Congressional delegation to bring our concerns about Pedro to the attention of the Pentagon and key House and Senate committees,” said Pete Rose, who represents ACT in Washington, DC. “In one of his first joint letters with Rep. Walter Jones, Senator Thom Tillis wrote to the Secretary of the Navy about his serious concerns over Pedro’s future. This most recent letter is a clear signal to the Congress and Pentagon that SAR is a core Marine Corps mission that should not be thrown off,” he added

“I believe we need to carefully evaluate the full consequences of removing Pedro from the Marine Corps’ capabilities. ACT is concerned that loosing Pedro will end MCAS Cherry Point’s role in SAR without a viable replacement plan,” said Greg Lewis, President of ACT.

“If the US Coast Guard was to assume the SAR mission for Eastern North Carolina, the air assets would have to be located outside of the operational training areas for MCAS Cherry Point, and MCB Camp Lejeune. This would result in lengthened response times during critical emergencies, not only for the Marines but also for any Air Force units that Pedro supports in times of emergency,” said Frank Bottorff, Havelock City Manager and former base commanding officer at MCAS Cherry Point.

The 2015 Marine Aviation Plan announced that Marine Corps Aviation will divest the dedicated SAR mission at MCAS Cherry Point during the first quarter of fiscal year 2016. The Aviation Plan states, without any details or explanation, that the U.S. Coast Guard will take over Pedro’s over-water SAR responsibilities.

“Although Pedro is a vital part of the Marine Corps presence in our region and is greatly valued by our local citizens, the plan to eliminate SAR from MCAS Cherry Point has not been explained or justified to the local community or our elected officials. ACT feels that the Aviation Plan does not address several key issues critical to MCAS Cherry Point and their civilian partners throughout the local region,” said James Norment, a local member of ACT’s legal and lobbying team.

ACT has urged local governments and interested persons to raise important questions about the loss of Pedro. For example:

  • Although the Marine Corps’ SAR mission is a valued and critically important part of MCAS Cherry Point’s service to its Marines and civilian neighbors, the Aviation Plan fails to provide any details for how the Marine Corps will divest SAR and ensure that SAR capabilities are not negatively impacted.
  • The Aviation Plan states that the US Coast Guard will take responsibility for SAR for Eastern North Carolina, but fails to explain how that transition will occur. As recently as late 2014, the US Coast Guard was planning on closing Air Facility Charleston, SC in an effort to save money. There is no guarantee that the US Coast Guard has the infrastructure or man-power necessary to assume responsibility for Eastern North Carolina SAR operations.
  • If the US Coast Guard was to assume the SAR mission for Eastern North Carolina, the air assets would have to be located outside of the operational training areas for MCAS Cherry Point, and MCB Camp Lejeune. This would result in lengthened response times during critical emergencies, not only for the Marines but also for any Air Force units that Pedro supports in times of emergency.
 

ACT outlines spending at MCAS Cherry Point

March 19, 2015

 

CHERRY POINT, NC: Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow took stock of federal and state budget spending for Cherry Point Marine air station during a meeting last week at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.

Construction projects totaling $183 million are planned for Cherry Point over the next five years, according to James Norment, an attorney and lobbyist for ACT. Included are planned security upgrades in 2019 that pave the way for the basing of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Cherry Point. ACT made the upgrades, which include security fencing, a priority in its lobbying efforts for federal dollars.

Facility upgrades are also planned for unmanned aerial vehicles at the base.

“That’s a great opportunity for Cherry Point,” Norment said of the future of UAVs.

Two aircraft maintenance hangars are also planned at Fleet Readiness Center East.

“Some of those hangars are the original hangars from the 1940s,” Norment said of the buildings at FRC East.

But not all was rosy. A planned F-35 lift fan facility for FRC East is not included in the construction plans.

“We need to protect these funding streams and push harder on the lift fan,” Norment said.

Norment said the need for the lift fan facility is even more crucial after Rolls Royce, the maker of the F-35 engine, committed $10 million for upgrades to its Indianapolis plant where maintenance work is done on the lift fan.

“The lift fan facility is of the utmost importance to the future of the depot,” Norment said. “It’s a big part of the mission for work on the F-35.”

ACT members lamented a lack of commitment in Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed state budget to support the efforts of local community groups in protecting military bases. However, the budget does call for $2 million in each of the next two years for land acquisitions to provide buffers around military bases and training areas.

“While the amount is small, it’s important that it is dedicated to the military bases,” said Greg Lewis, head of the ACT board. “I’m sure the need will greatly outstrip the $2 million. When you look at 40,000 acres just around Fort Bragg, that $2 million is not even a drop in the bucket.”

Norment said ACT would continue to push for continuous funding for land acquisitions, but he said supporters of Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro often run up against the same problem with state officials.

“What we run into is that as long as Lejeune and Fort Bragg are taken care of, everything is going to be alright,” Norment said. “We have to constantly beat that drum.”

by Ken Buday, Halifax Media

Help support MCAS Cherry Point and FRC-East by becoming a member of ACT!

Your membership allows us to work closely with our Congressional and legislative delegations to push for laws and budget appropriations that will help preserve and grow MCAS Cherry Point. We will use available resources to host community events to promote Cherry Point and educate the public about its economic importance to our area. As a member, you will receive benefits throughout the year, and take pride in knowing you are part of a positive force to advocate for the existence and success of MCAS Cherry Point and FRC-East. Sign up to become a member today!