March 23, 2012 10:36:59 PM
Two local leaders have been tasked with representing the community on the newly-established Mississippi Military Communities Council, which was re-established by Gov. Phil Bryant last week to help promote and protect the state's military interests and advise him on issues impacting the state's nine military bases.
The governor appointed retired Col. Nick Ardillo, former executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, to the council last week.
Allegra Brigham and Mike Hainsey were chosen by the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link's Military Affairs Committee to work with Ardillo and the council.
Brigham is the interim vice president for university relations and advancement at Mississippi University for Women and is serving as an honorary commander for the second time at Columbus Air Force Base.
Hainsey is the executive director of GTRA and retired as a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel in 1999.
The three will work closely with the council and the governor to protect CAFB -- and other military bases around the state -- in the event of possible new rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
In the 2013 defense budget, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requested BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015.
Brigham was among the community members who worked to keep CAFB in Columbus during the 1990s BRAC, and Friday afternoon she said she feels its important to keep the air base here, not only for the economic impact the base has but also for the civic and cultural talent CAFB families bring to the area.
"I love and appreciate the Air Force and all it adds to the community," Brigham said. "It enhances the community tremendously and enriches it."
Hainsey said his experience -- being assigned to CAFB four times in his military career and working as a base contractor after retirement -- gives him an understanding of the base's mission and how that mission is accomplished.
"CAFB is important to the community on many levels but especially because of what they do for our national defense," Hainsey said. "They are the busiest Air Force in the world. ...It's important we all organize and do what it takes to support our bases."
The Mississippi Military Communities Council was established in the 1990s by then-Gov. Kirk Fordice. Mississippi is home to four federal bases, including CAFB, as well as two Army National Guard installations and three Air National Guard bases. The combined bases contribute an estimated $2.5 billion in annual economic impact.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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