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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Hernando may get 3rd National Guard Unit


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The Florida National Guard is considering locating an emergency response unit at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

The 48th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team would help first responders and emergency personnel by identifying chemical, biological, nuclear and explosive agents.

Such a move would bring 22 soldiers to the area which would enhance not only the airport’s standing but boost the local economy, Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut said.

Schraut said the new Florida National Guard unit would ideally be located on 3 acres adjacent to the existing National Guard unit off Spring Hill Drive. It would also be next to the Army Air National Guard, home to the Black Hawk unit.

“We’d like to keep them (all three Guard units) together for security purposes,” Schraut said.

Schraut said the Spring Hill site makes sense because of the proximity of central command at Mac Dill Air Force Base in Tampa.

And, of course, the Black Hawk unit already housed here would provide a natural relationship, he said.

“We’ve got good access across the state and across the country,” Schraut said.

The airport recently rebranded to capitalize on its proximity to Tampa Bay.

“(This) just adds one more piece to our puzzle,” Schraut said. “It enhances our value to the state and, quite frankly, to the entire country.

“It means 22 members of that unit would come here with their families and these are good jobs and great families,” Schraut added. “We’d love to have them as part of our community.”

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said it makes sense the Guard would come here.

“It would be awesome,” Russell said. “It enhances what we already have here. It makes perfect sense for them to locate here.”

Negotiations with the Florida National Guard will continue.

In related news:

The Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport may soon have a replica of the famed B-17 Flying Fortress on display in the aviation lobby in Brooksville.

The Aviation Authority is in the process of purchasing the replica, which would be part of a larger display. The Authority plans to raise about $33,000 from the community for the display.

Five or six donors have already stepped up and given some $9,000, Schraut said.

“We’re well on our way,” he said.

During WWII, the airport -- known then as the Brooksville Army Air Field -- was a training ground and B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilots were trained here and saw action in the European theater.

“This model will memorialize those who gave their lives in service,” Russell said.

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