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RAF MILDENHALL, England — A budget crunch has forced the 100th Air Refueling Wing to cancel a community appreciation day designed to bridge difficulties between RAF Mildenhall and the surrounding community.

In a press release Wednesday afternoon, Col. Richard Devereaux expressed disappointment, but said the base’s first priority was fighting and paying for the global war on terror.

“We sincerely appreciate the support of our British friends and neighbors in the local community, and I am truly disappointed that community appreciation day will be canceled,” he said in the release.

He cited a need by U.S. Air Forces in Europe to absorb $100 million in war on terrorism costs as the main reason for the cancellation.

David Burnip, chief executive of Forest Heath District Council, which administers the area around RAF Mildenhall and nearby RAF Lakenheath, said, “Obviously, Forest Heath District Council shares the disappointment felt by many people in the community at the news of the cancellation.

“However, we appreciated such a decision would not have been taken lightly.”

The special day planned for June was created after the cancellation of the popular Air Fete. The annual Air Fete drew hundreds of thousands of people to the base to watch flying demonstrations and view static displays of aircraft.

Tony Molloy, who owns a news shop near the base in Beck Row, said, “I’m not surprised [by the cancellation]. I don’t think anybody is surprised off-post.”

He said people know of the budget cuts. However, he said, he wondered how an Air Force so short of funds can continue with its plans for a costly housing construction project.

The Air Force wants to build 590 houses near RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath to house airmen and their families. The plan is unpopular with locals who fear the project will drastically change the atmosphere of this area of villages and farms.

The community appreciation day was developed, too, to mend a relationship between the base and its neighbors that has been cracked somewhat in the wake of the terrorist attacks in America more than three years ago. Road closures and other security measures have caused a friction Devereaux wanted to soothe.


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