Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Travis Flies High

Travis Flies High
Focus on Base's Local Impact
By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

United States Air Force personnel and their families line up recently to get their first look at the "Spirit of Solano," a new C-17 Globemaster III, the first to be deployed to Travis Air Force Base. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

City and county officials listened intently Tuesday when the air mobility wing commander at Travis Air Force Base spoke about the base's impact and the community's support.

Several elected officials were among the 100 or so guests at the Marriott in Fairfield, where keynote speaker Col. Steven J. Arquiette covered a broad range of topics that included but went beyond the base's economic impact.

Addressing the local leaders, he said, "I can't understate the importance of the role you play, whether it's doing things locally or taking trips to Capitol Hill."

As of September, there were nearly 24,500 active duty, reserve and civilian personnel at Travis, which Arquiette said is the county's largest employer. Between the value of jobs created and expenditures, the commander said the base puts about $1.3 billion into the community each year.

"My vision for Travis is to provide world-class strategic, tactical airlift, air refueling and medical care and research for our nation," he said.

The medical component of this vision is David Grant Medical Center, which he said will be the only actual medical center remaining in the Air Force when a hospital in San Antonio closes.

"I do think it is very important that we maintain that medical center status," he said.

The commander also stressed the importance of offering first-rate education, explaining, "We have to have world-class schools in Solano County if we're going to draw educated businesses to make a home here."

With the changes occurring throughout the military, the colonel said efficiency is key. To that end, the base has used Toyota as a model as it strives to eliminate waste from its processes.

After the latest set of draw-downs, he said the Air Force would stand at about 305,000, which makes it about half the size it was when he joined.

"We have to get smarter, and we have to do better at what we're doing," he said.

With Travis' aero club having relocated to the Rio Vista Airport, which he called a "good move," Arquiette also mentioned the possibility of moving the base's museum to allow for greater access. Also on the horizon is the privatization of housing, which would involve a national developer becoming involved in base housing at Travis and some other bases.

After spending time on "opportunities," the commander switched to his concerns, one being the vital yet consistently deadly Highway 12.

"If things can't get safely down Highway 12 ..., we've got a problem," he said. He added that he is working with the county supervisors to prevent encroachment, an example of it being expansion plans for a windfarm close to the base.

Supervisor John Vasquez said, "I think the colonel has been very open and frank with us." His fellow supervisor, Mike Reagan, added, "Obviously, we're all very focused on Highway 12."

The supervisors also seemed to agree on the base's importance economically and otherwise to the county.

"It's tremendous," said Supervisor John Silva of the economic impact. "Plus, the services that are there for all the retirees in the area are enormous, and I think it's in a strategic location for the defense of our country."

Air Force Capt. David Weber looks out the window of his C-17 after taking off from Travis Air Force Base for a training exercise. (Brad Zweerink/The Reporter)

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

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