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Partnership between Morris ANGB, TAA Takes Flight

  • Published
  • By Maj. Angela Walz
  • 162nd Wing

The Morris Air National Guard Base is home to the Air National Guard's (ANG) premier F-16 fighter pilot training unit, the 162nd Wing, one of the largest ANG wings in the country. It resides next to the Tucson International Airport (TUS) and shares use of the runway, security, and fire control with the airport, which is operated by the Tucson Airport Authority (TAA). A blossoming community-based partnership between the wing and the TAA is proving beneficial for both entities.

“We have distinct federal and state missions and the TAA leadership team understands that,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Butler, 162nd Wing Commander. “Ours is a mutualistic symbiotic relationship that has been nurtured over time,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Butler recently had the opportunity to further educate Danette Bewley, TAA President and Chief Executive Officer, about the 162nd Wing’s mission, and he did so from an F-16. Last month Ms. Bewley met with the general for a mission brief, wing tour, and an orientation flight, which are sometimes conducted for civic leaders to ensure a better understanding of a particular weapons system and its role in the ANG mission.

“Danette Bewley was a pleasure to fly and has certainly earned that honor as a very supportive and proactive Tucson Airport Authority leader, not only with Morris Air Guard, but every partner in Tucson,” said Gen. Butler. “She is a true patriot leader with a servant’s heart!”

“I was raised in a military family and have always respected our military for the sacrifice they make for our nation. Having the 162nd Wing at TUS is a privilege,” Bewley said. “The partnership we have is amazing. We collaborate on issues, initiatives, projects, and programs that benefit all users of the airport. We can take our different interests and find mutual solutions so we as the TAA can support all of our users,” she said.

The TAA operates TUS and Ryan Airfield (RYN), a general aviation airport just west of Tucson, and TUS is the primary takeoff and landing location for the 162nd Wing’s jets. As a self-sustaining entity, TAA operations are funded through revenues from airline lease space and landing fees, concessions (parking, rental car, etc.), other space rentals, land leases, and fuel sales, etc. Capital improvements, such as runway and terminal construction are traditionally funded through state and federal grants, with a matching share from the TAA depending on the grant and respective cost formula. One recent partnership that is taking shape is the End-Around Taxiway Project (referred to as DBB1). DBB1 is the first of three Design-Bid-Build (DBB) projects associated with the Airfield Safety Enhancement (ASE) Program at TUS. 

“The ASE program has been a great opportunity for the 162nd Wing to partner with the TAA and FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] to meet new federal safety standards and address long-standing airfield geometry issues that will increase airfield safety,” said Col. Greg Hoffman, 162nd Mission Support Group Commander. It’s a win-win situation for TAA and the wing. “We’ve been involved in this effort from the beginning and have interfaced with the TAA design team to incorporate and fund ANG-specific elements as part of the project,” he said.

“The TAA is always focused on safety, security and customer service, and our responsibility as an economic engine for the region.  The Air National Guard has a similar focus on airfield safety and national security as well; as a partner, they have a vested interest in our efforts to safely manage and maintain the airport and airfield,” Bewley added. “When we have projects and programs that are dependent on federal grant dollars, the Air National Guard can tap into MILCON [military construction] funds.  Through these avenues we can form a partnership and work on a project, bring in our respective funding sources and accomplish goals much quicker together than we would apart.”

The cost of the ASE Program is estimated at $350 million with some of the funding provided by the Air National Guard (ANG) via the 162nd Wing’s involvement in the joint venture.  “This project was funded through a combination of FAA and Air National Guard funds and aligning these funding streams into a single construction award was a significant effort,” said Col. Hoffman.

Another pending partnership is a new entryway to the Morris Air National Guard Base. Two years ago, a letter of intent was signed between several stakeholders after almost seven years of negotiations. The highlights of the agreement include: The ANG acquiring about 26 acres of land at the southeast corner of East Valencia Road and South Park Avenue to develop its new main gate entrance; The ANG will design and construct the new entrance, which will be off Park Avenue, at its own cost;  Aerovation Inc., a Tucson-based aerospace technology firm, that has a nearly 35,000 square-foot hangar on the TAA land to be sold to the ANG; Aerovation  will be relocated to a site on East Aero Park Boulevard near the airport’s air traffic control tower on the west side of the airfield. The TAA will sell the airport property to ANG at appraised fair market value to include the full replacement value of the hangar, with the proceeds used by TAA to construct the replacement hangar.

“We have been able to find creative ways to accomplish goals together to arrive at a win-win solution. That’s part of the partnership,” Bewley said on the collaboration and success in planning for the new entryway.

“The TAA and the ANG have common goals, such as preserving safety and meeting regulatory and operational requirements, and many hours have been poured into resolving the matter by both entities,” said Col. Sandra Wilson, 162nd Wing Vice Commander. “The letter of intent is a big step in this process, and we are excited for continued momentum. We look forward to our future collaboration and partnership with TAA.”

Safety is the inherent mission that binds, and the 162nd Wing and the TAA frequently train together to practice worst-case scenarios. The TAA regularly hosts a triennial training exercise and invites local public safety and emergency service providers (agencies) to participate. At their most recent mass casualty drill, 15 of the wing’s security forces and fire personnel trained alongside city, county, and national agencies in the triennial exercise, which is mandated by the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139, to test the airport’s emergency planning and response. Overall, exercise participants said the collaborative aspect of the training helped community partners prepare in the event of a real-life emergency.

“It is a privilege to know the people at the Morris Air National Guard Base and to work so closely with Brig. Gen. Butler and the command staff. They are wonderful people who have only the best interest of the nation in mind. I really admire that. As a citizen and as an individual, I really want to do what I can to help support them. As an airport CEO, I want to work with them so we can achieve great goals together by bringing projects to fruition and having a positive relationship,” Bewley added.

The TAA is a unique independent nonprofit created and developed by community business leaders and established by Arizona state charter in 1948. The wing's history dates back to the 1950’s during the Korean War when the "base" consisted of an old adobe farmhouse and a dirt-floor hangar with enough space for three aircraft.