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Airmen, A-10s from Michigan base deploy for Islamic State fight

Personnel inspect an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan on Aug. 16, 2014, as a UH-72 Lakota helicopter takes off in the background.

DAN HEATON/U.S. AIR FORCE

By CHRISTINA HALL AND TODD SPANGLER | Detroit Free Press (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 21, 2015

(Tribune Content Agency) — About 350 airmen and 12 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan were deployed last week to Southwest Asia in an operation to fight the Islamic State group, the military announced.

Major Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, the adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard, made the announcement during a luncheon today at the base in Harrison Township. He said the deployment is for six months and that the airmen are out there "doing the heavy lifting."

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R- Harrison Township, in a news release, called the deployment evidence of the important role the attack planes play, even as they are targeted by the military to be grounded as part of budget cuts.

"This deployment is a true testament to the vital role our National Guard plays in national defense and to the effectiveness of the A-10 'Warthog' in combat, which is why I will continue to fight for the aircraft and stop shortsighted efforts to divest the fleet," Miller said.

Vadnais told the crowd that the A-10s — the sole attack jet that flies out of the Macomb County base and was proposed to be grounded by the Air Force — "are not going anywhere, not for the foreseeable future." His comments drew applause from about 250 people in attendance.

He also said while he knows at some point, the A-10s will go, "it is important we stay in the fighter business."

Vadnais said there are conversations about relevant platforms for the base, with conversations switching to F-16s, he said.

"We want to stay in the fighter business," he said.

Vadnais' announcement and comments came during a meeting of the Selfridge Base Community Council, a group of about 250 business and community leaders in the county.

The base brings the county hundreds of millions a year in jobs and economic activity. Local federal legislators have been fighting to keep the A-10s from being mothballed.

Eighteen A-10s fly out of Selfridge, directly supporting 535 jobs and providing a key mission of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard based there, which also has eight KC-135 refueling tankers.

The Macomb County Chamber of Commerce has projected that Selfridge and its more than 4,300 military and civilian workers — as well as associated defense business — are worth more than $700 million in economic activity, creating a ripple of business that runs into Mount Clemens, Clinton Township, Chesterfield Township and beyond.

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