Willow Grove public, Guardsmen commune during community meeting

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 111th Attack Wing at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, converged with an audience largely composed of the Willow Grove Chamber of Commerce, local leaders, business owners and developers here May 24.

The objective of the assembly was to discuss expansion, proposals and concerns affecting members of the local community, including those that involve the local Air National Guard installation.

"The base, believe it or not, is thriving," said Col. William Griffin, 111th ATKW vice commander, of the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. He continued by saying that since 2005's base realignment and closure, many of the local populous aren't aware that a military base remains in the Willow Grove axis.

With a loss of more than 600 acres from the former naval station, the installation appears deserted from adjacent thoroughfares. Concealed by an exterior of abandoned buildings and overgrowth, the interior is a hidden cache composed of the Pa. National Guard's 111th ATKW, the 56th Stryker Brigade and the Army Reserve's 338th Medical Brigade. The total force culminates to generate a huge contribution to the local municipality.

Griffin continued by listing some of the roles Guardsmen perform as both military and community members.

"What we say in the Air National Guard is that we do three things: We fight our nation's wars, we protect the homeland and we build partnerships."

Griffin explained how the Wing is currently fulfilling the first commitment through 24/7 operations of the MQ-9 aircraft controlled out of Horsham AGS in other parts of the world. He continued by describing how the Horsham AGS's 201st RED HORSE, Det. 1 current mission is building partnerships by assisting in construction of a medical clinic in Guatemala. Finally, the former A-10 Thunderbolt pilot explained how Guardsmen remain ready to protect the nation's interests for "whatever domestic or civil support is needed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and beyond."

Beginning with an introduction and panel discussion, the meeting proceeded into a question-and-answer session. Topics covered included expansion and development, environmental concerns and traffic and storm water management. Another topic highlighted to the nearly 85-person audience, was the importance of a military presence in the community.

Kip McFatridge, one of the seven Upper Moreland Township commissioners, said he is committed to ensuring that the community is aware that it still contains a working, flourishing military installation - one that has proven critical to the local area.

"The military is still here," he said. "And I think people don't really understand that [the installation] is growing. But I know that; and I try to get that out in the public all the time because [the military] is vital to us." Recounting a rescue operation conducted by the 56th Stryker Brigade that served to save flood victims in the local area, "They've saved lives for us."

He finished by stating why base personnel are vital to area commerce.

"Base personnel are part of the community," McFatridge said simply. "They live here, they work here, they buy things here from our retailers."