Hundreds of military supporters gathered earlier today on Airside Drive in Moon to protest the planned 2013 closure of the 911th Airlift Wing.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, as well as members of were among those who gathered in Airport Cargo Building A to express opposition to the Air Force's decision to shutter the base.
Despite its recently announced plans to close the Moon-based airlift wing, the Air Force has invested more than $58 million in infrastructure at the base in the past five years, according to Murphy's recent before the House Armed Services Committee.
The base tomorrow will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of Building 226, a newly constructed facility that will serve as a lodge for the base's reservists.
Each of the 911th's more than 1,100 military and 280 civilian personnel positions will be eliminated in 2013 under the closure. The neighboring 171st Refueling Wing is also set to undergo a realignment under the plan, losing as many as 25 percent of its personnel.
The Air Force targeted the 911th for closure because of the of its eight C-130 tactical aircraft, which were manufactured in the 1960s.
"We are asking the Air Force to give us the more modern planes and we'll show them what the 911th can do," Murphy told supporters.
Members of Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation as well as local and state officials have asked the Air Force to release a cost-benefit analysis of the 911th's operations before finalizing the closure.
"The passion is there, the drive is there, the numbers are there," Murphy said. "We just can't get the data to the right desks in D.C."
The 911th's closure is a part of an Air Force plan to cut its 2013 fiscal budget by more than $8.7 billion.
Today's rally, hosted by the Military Affairs Coalition of Western Pennsylvania, marked the second gathering of 911th supporters since the Air Force announced its decision to close the base in February. The coalition hosted a at Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland.
"They wanted to have something closer to the base and the also wanted to have something on a reserve weekend to give people a chance to come (to the rally)," said Moon Township Manager Jeanne Creese, who works with the and attended the rally.
"It's awesome," Creese said of the gathering. "A lot of the people here are [Moon] residents and even if they aren't residents they're residents when they're on reserve. It's and awesome event with awesome speakers."