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Whiteman Air Force Base / National Guard (Sedalia)

By Philip Dine

WASHINGTON -- Missouri scored a major victory today when federal authorities decided to move the 131st Fighter Wing stationed at Lambert Field to Whiteman Air Force Base near Sedalia, keeping about 250 jobs in the state.

The National Guard wing, which has a long history in Missouri and was the unit of Charles Lindbergh, had been slated to move out of state as a result of last year's Base Realignment and Closing process, despite an outcry from Missouri legislators.

"I am pleased that the U.S. Air Force found a way to preserve the 131st, one of the most experienced and proven Air Guard units in the country," said Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., a senior defense appropriator.

The unit will join the B-2 mission at Whiteman. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, called it "an important new role" for the 131st.

"I am very pleased that the Air Force recognized the importance of retaining these important skills here in Missouri. This new Missouri Air National Guard unit will only add to Whiteman's reputation as one of the finest U.S. military installations in the world," Skelton said.

Gov. Matt Blunt said the move would help defend Missouri from domestic and foreign threats.

The move will bring together the 131st's air crew, maintenance personnel and support staff with the active duty B-2 unit. The 131st was selected among Air Guard units across the country for the mission. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called it "a new chapter in the history of the 131st."

It was not immediately known when the transfer would take place.

The base at Lambert would remain open under the Pentagon's realignment plan. The 157th Air Operations Group and the 218th Engineering Installation Group will relocate from Jefferson Barracks into space at Lambert.

Maj. Gen. King Sidwell, adjutant general for the Missouri National Guard, called the news an exciting development.

"While the military is transforming to meet current and future objectives, we are prepared to do whatever necessary to remain an effective part of total force," Sidwell said.

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