Great Falls Tribune: MANG ‘preferred’ for new mission

Top Defense Department officials told state political leaders Thursday that the Montana Air National Guard has been selected as the preferred site for a new non-flying role that could provide 206 jobs for the unit on Gore Hill in Great Falls.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley called Montana’s U.S. senators and Gov. Brian Schweitzer to say MANG was their top choice, pending an environmental review, to operate the new mission, called a target production intelligence group.

Under the new role, some MANG employees would develop “targeting data” for the military by reviewing satellite imagery data and other geospatial intelligence. Military commanders in the field could use the targeting data during combat to fine-tune their actions.

State elected officials and local business leaders reacted favorably to the news.

They said the proposed new role, coupled with the expected transfer to Great Falls of four small, maneuverable C-27J transport planes, is expected to maintain about the same number of personnel at MANG as its 120th Fighter Wing will lose with the expected future transfer of F-15 fighter jets to the California National Guard in Fresno, Calif.

MANG leaders initially estimated the change in flying missions could reduce their personnel by up to 30 percent. At the time, the Great Falls unit had about 900 personnel, including about 300 who worked full-time.

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