Our opinion: CAFB's immeasurable impact

April 29, 2011 12:52:00 PM



Another class of Air Force pilots graduates from Columbus Air Force Base today. Another group of men and women, and their spouses and significant others, who have lived and worked in Columbus and surrounding areas will be moving on to other cities, and more specialized training at other bases. 


Graduations happen like clockwork at the base. About 15 classes of pilots -- 300 pilots in all -- cycle through the base each year. 


With military precision, the base performs its three-fold mission: Produce pilots. Advance airmen. Feed the fight. 


And, the Golden Triangle reaps the benefits from the base''s presence. While the dividends are immeasurable, the base pins a number on it each year. In 2010, that number was $256 million -- representing direct and indirect payroll, construction, and contracts for work on the base. 


That number was down from $287 million in 2009, when the base''s budget was augmented by federal stimulus funds, boosting construction contracts on base. 


CAFB is, far and away, Columbus'' largest employer. Helping those 300 pilots through training each year are more than 1,200 military personnel and more than 1,000 civil service workers and contractors. 


Not included among the base''s calculations, however, are the more intangible impacts on the community. The whole area benefits from this influx of highly educated, friendly and dedicated citizens each year. The bring along with them their girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses and families -- who work in our stores and offices, teach and learn in our classrooms, and volunteer in our neighborhoods and communities. 


Many of them, and others looking for a military friendly community, retire here. Not included in the base''s calculations are nearly 6,000 military retirees who call Columbus and the Golden Triangle home. 


The presence of the base helps us lure military-oriented industries, and those thousands of employees and millions of dollars in paychecks. 


We''ve said this before, but it can''t be repeated enough. We can try to put a dollar figure on it, but Columbus Air Force Base''s presence in the community is immeasurable, and much appreciated.