WASHINGTON — Guard and Reserve support groups worry that the base closings plan approved last week could force some part-time troops to travel hundreds of miles to train, hurting recruiting and retention efforts.

“We’re looking at people with 15 years (in service) who are going to be traveling 500 (to) 1,000 miles to get to the nearest reserve base,” said Louis Leto, spokesman for the Reserve Officers Association of the United States.

“Are these folks going to give up a lot of time invested and leave? But what else are they going to do — drive for hours to train?”

In May, Department of Defense officials proposed shutting down seven Air Force Reserve bases and relocating numerous Air National Guard units as part of plans to reduce excess military capacity throughout the country.

Last Friday, the Base Closure and Realignment Commission rearranged those plans, lessening the impact on many Guard units but still approving six of the seven reserve base shutdowns.

Retired Lt. Gen. Dennis M. McCarthy, executive director of the Reserve association, said he hopes the president or Congress scraps the plan.

“I think there is enough danger in this thing to warrant rejection and starting the process over again,” he said. “Just look at the job the Guard is doing down South right now (with Hurricane Katrina relief). If they weren’t there, I don’t want to think how much worse the situation would be.”

Leto said some of the nonclosures leave reserve units active but with uncertain futures.

“In some places the Air Force will move all the planes away, but leave the maintenance unit active,” he said. “How are you going to recruit an airman to the force there when there are no planes to work on?”

John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States, said he was pleased to hear commissioners voice concerns that homeland security could be jeopardized if the Reserve and Guard numbers drop.

But their changes, he said, did little to solve the problem.

“If they’re important, why not return to them more planes?” he said. “Why not include them in plans for the new aircraft? There is only one guard unit planned to be flying the new F-22.”

Goheen said his group is monitoring lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Tennessee objecting to the moves, and hopes those might provide an opportunity for change.

But Nebraska Adjutant General Roger Lempke, president of the Adjutant General Association, said his group is pleased with the revisions, especially the realignment of flying missions. Under the old plan, five states would be left without any Guard aircraft, but the BRAC changes left only Connecticut without planes.

“When they were able to go back and put aircraft back in many of those states, that did fix most of our concerns,” he said.

As of Aug. 31, nearly 146,000 National Guard and Reserve troops were on active duty for operations overseas and homeland defense operations.

Brad Swezey, spokesman for the Air National Guard, said officials there are waiting until the base realignment process is complete before they determine how the moves might affect troops.

“Certainly, from a Guard perspective, the closer you are to a base the easier it is to train,” he said. “But right now, it’s premature to make any judgments.”

President Bush has until Sept. 23 to accept the list and send it to Congress, send it back to the BRAC Commission for revisions, or “pocket veto” the list, effectively killing it.

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