U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn visited Fort Campbell April 13 to gain perspective on funding and infrastructure needs at Campbell Army Airfield, or CAAF.
During her time on post, Blackburn attended the installation’s annual Volunteer of the Year ceremony and toured CAAF’s air traffic control tower and Hangar 8.
“We come to the post regularly, and it’s always helpful to not only meet with the command team but the men and women who are carrying out the defense of our nation,” she said. “As we’re looking at some of the construction projects that are needed, it’s helpful for me to stand there and talk to the people who are actually working on the equipment and ask what they want to see in a new hangar.”
John Williams, airfield division chief, Fort Campbell Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said the installation needs additional hangar space to accommodate new aircraft being fielded over the next several years.
“You can only put four Chinooks with blades on in [Hangar 8], and we’re going to go up to probably 48 Chinooks at CAAF,” Williams said. “Between the Chinooks and the Future Vertical Lift Aircraft that are probably going to be fielded in 2030, we’re going to need at least one new hangar and probably more."
Blackburn sits on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, which allows her to advocate for funding those types of projects in Congress.
“It’s one thing to see a list of projects submitted on paper, but to actually have the opportunity to walk decision-makers through the facilities firsthand is invaluable,” said Jessica Stonesifer, director of Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works. “When these projects get to their level for appropriation, they have a visual and can truly see the impact it has on readiness.”
Stonesifer said the assets Blackburn toured support a national mission for both regular and special forces operations. They also provide an emergency landing location for other aircraft during natural disasters.
CAAF’s air traffic control tower is an essential part of its mission, and a proposal to replace the aging facility for $25 million is among the installation’s top three Military Construction, or MILCON, project submissions.
“It was constructed in 1975 and is the oldest air traffic control tower in U.S. Army Forces Command,” Stonesifer said. “It has life, health and safety concerns and is a maintenance challenge. It’s under the required height needed to see the entire airfield and doesn’t have a large enough cab to house current requirements for personnel and equipment.”
Williams said being able to communicate with members of Congress like Blackburn helps the installation secure funding to meet those needs, and that her visit to CAAF went well.
“To have a senator wanting to come up and see the tower is a big deal,” he said. “She was very attentive; she asked some really great questions, and she was able to meet some Soldiers and see the richness of all the missions and the aircraft we have at Campbell Army Airfield.”
Blackburn also took the time to meet with civilians during the Volunteer of the Year ceremony, presenting the winners in each of five categories with coins for their efforts to support Soldiers and Families.
Major General JP McGee, commanding general, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, said he appreciated Blackburn’s attendance at the ceremony and her continued support of the installation.
“I think it represents her strong commitment to Fort Campbell, a commitment that I’ve experienced since I was here as a battalion commander in 2006,” McGee said. “I can’t think of anyone who’s a greater ally to Fort Campbell, to this community – locally first, and now at the national level as a senator.”
Blackburn said McGee and the others she spoke with during her visit were very accommodating and informative, and she plans to use what she learned from them to advocate for new CAAF facilities.
“Every time I come to post, I learn something new about the service and sacrifice that the men and women here are making,” Blackburn said. “These are men and women who have taken that oath to protect and defend, and it’s always helpful to hear what the Families are facing whether it’s dwell time or deployment time. And we also need to keep a constant watch to make certain we have the amount of equipment here that’s necessary for people to not only train but deploy.”