Air Force personnel to hold exercise in Moses Lake

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Port of Moses Lake Interim Executive Director Kim DeTrolio, Commission President Darrin Jackson, and commissioners David ‘Kent’ Jones and Stroud Kunkle at Monday’s port commission meeting.

MOSES LAKE — Around 150 Air Force personnel will be in Moses Lake through the end of September for the Mobility Guardian exercise, according to Rich Mueller, airport director for the Port of Moses Lake.

Speaking at a regular meeting of the Port of Moses Lake Commission on Monday, Mueller said this year’s exercise will solely involve air support, and will not involve any Army or other land combat units like it did when it was last held in 2017.

“We won’t have any paratroopers assaulting the terminal this time,” Mueller said.

The closest the Air Force will get will be a medical evacuation drill, Mueller said.

“We have enough going on at the port; a quieter Mobility Guardian is okay,” he said.

According to an Air Force press release, Mobility Guardian, which is held every two years, is the Air Mobility Command’s primary large-scale mobility exercise designed to test readiness in U.S. and allied forces.

Air Force personnel have already started arriving in Moses Lake, though Mueller said the Air Force lost their tents. Mueller said the Columbia Basin Job Corps agreed to put most of them up until other arrangements could be made.

“Kudos to Job Corps,” he said.

“That’s the difference between the Army and the Air Force,” Commissioner Darrin Jackson said. “The Army wouldn’t care if you have to sleep outside.”

“In the Army, that’s where you’re supposed to sleep,” added Commissioner David “Kent” Jones.

Mueller said that military aircraft — including at least one giant C-5 Galaxy transport — won’t start arriving until Tuesday afternoon.

Once the drill is finished at the end of September, Boeing will have the opportunity to lease the huge ramp space behind the main terminal building to store 737 MAX aircraft at the Grant County International Airport.

According to Mueller, Boeing has signed a lease on the two former B-52 alert pads owned by Seattle-based Aerospace Port International Group, and has already filled one up. In late August, Boeing announced that it is looking to hire several hundred temporary mechanics and maintenance technicians to handle the growing fleet of 737 MAXes in Grant County.

Finally, according to Director of Port Facilities Milton Miller, Genie is building a large awning to cover the materials it stores outside and protect them from the elements in the winter.

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