The Vermont Air Guard Base at the Burlington International Airport has been chosen to host the new state of the art, and controversial, F-35 fighter jet.
Vermont Adjutant General Steven Cray announced to his assembled troops Tuesday afternoon that the U.S. Air Force has chosen the Vermont Air Guard Base to host up to 16 of the new generation state-of the art F-35 fighter jets.
"Today is a historic day for the United States Air Force, for the Air National Guard, and certainly for the Vermont Air National Guard," says Cray. "This is a milestone event for the Air Force and its next step in securing the citizens of the United States. This morning I'm pleased to announced that the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force have selected Burlington as the first Air National Guard base for the F-35. Congratulations."
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, the commander in chief of the Vermont National Guard, said there are two reasons why the critical decision to post the fighter jet in Vermont was made.
"When our nation is in harm's way, when we're facing huge challenges, I am proud of the fact that it is the Vermont Air Guard that is the first to be called, that is first on the scene, as we were in 9/11," Shumlin says. "And what this decision does today is affirm your commitment, and give us the equipment that we will need to continue to protect our nation and our state. And we know that it means thousands and thousands of jobs for Vermonters will be protected, maintained, and strengthened in the future. That is a big deal for Vermont."
Vermont’‘s Congressional delegation called the decision a reflection of the Vermont Guard’s “dedication to its mission and long record of outstanding performance.” Governor Shumlin noted that over 13,000 Vermonters sent postcards to the U.S Air Force in support of basing the F-35 at Burlington.
But opponents of the F-35 said even before the decision was made that they would sue if Burlington was chosen. Democratic U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate President Pro Tem, said there has been misinformation disseminated about the plane.
"One thing I was concerned about; I've had several people telling me they were opposed to it because they were opposed to the idea of nuclear weapons being stored here in Burlington," says Leahy. "Then, I heard it from several more. I said 'well, of course there aren't any.' Others were concerned over cost, noise. I thought those were legitimate concerns. I was, though, upset with a number of people who told me we shouldn't have any Air Guard, we shouldn't have any Army Guard, we should get the military out of here, and frankly there is no common ground between me and those who want to get rid of the Vermont National Guard. Air or Army."
Vermont is the first and only National Guard facility chosen to host the F-35. Hill Air Force Base in Utah is the active duty U.S. Air Force installation chosen to receive the jets.