CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Long-term economic development and unique training zones was the pitch to Naval units by Yeager Airport officials at recent meetings in Norfolk, Virginia to attract military use to the facility.
Assistant Airport Directors James Mason and Nick Keller recently returned from the Naval Aviation Readiness Group, where Navy units and communities came together to discuss requirements needed for military training.
Mason called the discussions “very fruitful,” telling MetroNews Yeager was the only airport in attendance. He told the airport’s board on Wednesday the other two civilian groups there were Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
“We couple both the maritime training environment with barges and towboats, with the austerity of a coal mine site in the middle of nowhere with no noise abatement issues,” Mason said on the airport’s pitch for use.
“That variability to train looks a lot like our near-peer competitors that we are currently in military conflict with.”
Mason said a lot of the Naval units travel to Fallon, Nevada to train but with pitching West Virginia, units would only have to travel six hours by road.
He said a Navy Weapons and Tactics Instructor has scouted the land around Yeager Airport and said in the time the instructor looked at just the third site, he spotted over 100 different helicopter landing zones that could be used for training.
As part of the pitch tri-fold used by Yeager officials in Virginia, it says there are multiple coal mine sites available and over 10,000 acres for DVE, turf, aerial, gunnery, and laser training.
Officials also pitched the Capital Jet Center where units can not only fuel their aircraft but the local economy.
“As the military comes into train not only do they buy fuel, which is a direct input into our local economy, they also have $100 to $150 to spend on a hotel room. They also have $50 to 60 dollars a day given to them for per diem,” Mason said.
Mason, who served in the military for over 30 years, said once the economic point of view has been pitched to military members, not just Navy, in these meetings they become attracted to Yeager and southern West Virginia.
“Those military members, once we pitched it from an economic point of view, the majority of your military is made up of people from rural America. Those people connected when they understood some of the economic difficulties we deal with here,” Mason said.
The Capital Jet Center has set up a Military Morale, Welfare, and Recreation program to attract more military visitors. This includes help from West Virginia Tourism Department.
The airport has also renovated the military base at the airport, formerly known as the Eagle Building. The building now has more computers, tables, lockers, and workspace for military visitors.
“What that space allows is when visiting military units come to town, they need someplace to post up and create a base,” Mason said.
The renovated building will be dedicated on Friday at 11 a.m. and feature a special guest.
Mason expects four to six types of Marine aircraft in attendance along with active-duty Marines.