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franklin county times

Navy Team Meridian ready for action

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
March 5, 2001
A possible round of base closure hearings is only in the talking stages now, but members of Navy Team Meridian are taking the possibilities seriously.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said last week that should a commission be formed to consider closing U.S. military bases, he wants training bases such as Naval Air Station Meridian to be "off the table."
Lamar McDonald, chairman of Navy Team Meridian, said he is not relaxing his guard.
Such military decisions are complex and can take unexpected turns, McDonald said.
Critics point out the president is also committed to cutting taxes, and that may mean new money will not be committed to the military in great abundance. So to find the money, the military will likely be cutting back its numbers, weapons programs, facilities and bases.
Some members of Congress and the U.S. Senate are calling for another base closure commission.
NAS Meridian appeared on the closure list three times during the 1990s in 1991, 1993 and 1995. Each time, the commissioners voted to take it off the list, but each round involved a large community-wide effort to promote and point out the value of the base.
Navy Team Meridian, made up mainly of volunteers who donate their free time after work and on the weekends, took a break after the 1995 effort the third round of hearings in five years.
But the team has remained together and has been active in promoting NAS Meridian and working to expand its mission, to make it a strong, modern base should another round of base closings come up.
Two weeks ago, members of Navy Team Meridian went to Washington to meet with the state's Congressional delegation.
McDonald believes there will be a base closure commission formed for the year 2003. What its focus will be is unknown, but Navy Team Meridian has been laying the groundwork. From time to time, different military and government officials have been invited to visit NAS Meridian, just to see it in person.
At last count, NAS Meridian employed 3,358 people, easily making it Lauderdale County's largest employer.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him atsswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.