Imagine for a moment that a company announced that it was opening in Lowndes County and would produce $250 million dollars in economic impact each year. We would hardly be able to contain our excitement, right?
Yet, for the past 10 years, that’s what Columbus Air Force Base has meant to our economy. Do the math, that’s $2.5 billion worth of economic impact in the span of a decade. Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine what our community would be like without CAFB.
In fact, if you do remember what our community was like before pilot training began at what would become Columbus Air Force Base, you would also remember Franklin Roosevelt as President and Paul Johnson as Governor of Mississippi. Since 1941, Columbus Air Force Base has been a major economic engine for Lowndes County and the city of Columbus.
Thursday, the Base Community Council held its fall luncheon where Col. Samantha Weeks, who assumed command of the 14th Flying Training Wing in August, spoke to more than 100 community members who are actively engaged in the council’s efforts to maintain and grow the relationship between the base and the community.
Their work in developing a partnership with the base is important, not only for its efforts to help the Air Force with its important mission in training pilots who protect our nation, but in making sure the base is so intrinsically woven into the fabric of the community that it cannot be reasonably separated. The viability of CAFB depends heavily on its mission, but it’s worth remembering that the mission doesn’t necessarily have to be performed in our community. From time to time, Congress takes a cold, dispassionate look at our nation’s military facilities to determine which facilities are needed through a process called Base Realignment and Closure. Over the years, military installations have come and gone throughout the country. In our community, Columbus Air Force Base has come and stayed. That’s held true for 77 years now.
Given the Air Force’s shortage of pilots, there is no foreseeable circumstance that suggests CAFB will not continue to fulfill its mission here in Lowndes County. But circumstances change over time and the relationship between the base and our community remains essential to that continued partnership.
As much as CAFB has meant to our community, it is important to remember that what is neglected is often lost.
Guarding against that sort of complacency is not a job that should be left to a council of citizens. Each of us plays a role in making sure our CAFB neighbors are treated well and appreciated because, quite frankly, we cannot imagine what it would be like if they were not here.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.