Wicker champions Air Force Secretary James’ visit to Keesler

GULFPORT — On the heels of the Senate Armed Services Committee passing its fiscal-year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act last week, Sen. Roger Wicker had plenty to talk about Thursday during the Gulfport Chamber’s military affairs breakfast.

The most-recent news involved Keesler Air Force Base, which has continually been under attack by proposed force changes. Wicker said the Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, is scheduled to visit the base this weekend to see it firsthand.

“I don’t know. Maybe she doesn’t want a lot of publicity. Maybe she wants to come in and just see the base, but I’m telling you,” Wicker said with a laugh. “I’m tickled to death that Secretary James, a new Secretary of the Air Force, will be coming in.”

Prior to his speech, Wicker said James’ visit could be a big boost in the effort to keep Keesler’s 10 C-130J aircraft, which have again been earmarked for removal.

“She’s going to see this Mississippi community roll out the red carpet and she’s going to understand the support that we have for the military,” he said. “She’ll be rightly impressed, as officials are every year when we do the Salute to he Military. We’re going to warmly receive this important policy maker.”

Mentioning the C-130Js, Wicker said there won’t be any base closings this year authorized by the House or Senate, “but we sort of always have to worry about these stealth BRACs (base realignments and closures), the ones that can be done by moving personnel around and moving equipment around.”