During his 10 years as an elected officeholder from this part of the state, John Boccieri was on the front lines of the battle to keep the Youngstown Air Reserve Station from being decommissioned by the Pentagon.
Boccieri’s intimate knowledge of the mission and the operation of the base in Vienna Township, gleaned from his service as an Air Force reservist, has proved to be invaluable. The Mahoning Valley has benefited greatly from having a lawmaker on the inside.
Boccieri is no longer a member of Congress or a state legislator, but he is still on the inside — this time as the commander of the 773rd Airlift Squadron. The squadron is a unit of the 910th Operations Group. Col. Boccieri took over his new assignment June 2; he succeeds Col. Dan Miliken, a native of Farmington.
With four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and two years at the Pentagon, the 42-year-old commander who lives in Alliance is acutely aware of the challenges he confronts.
Fortunately, he has some breathing room when it comes to dealing with the cuts in Pentagon spending.
Last month, the Armed Services Committee of the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate included a “strategic pause” in the Defense Authorization bill for fiscal 2013 that begins in October.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a member of the Appropriations Committee, noted that the pause means the Youngstown Air Reserve Station will not lose two of its 12 C-130 transport aircraft. The aircraft reduction was announced by the Defense Department in anticipation of its funding being cut.
Brown and Ohio’s other senator, Rob Portman, a Republican who serves on the Armed Services Committee, have pledged to do everything possible to ensure that the base, a major economic driver in the Valley, is kept open. There is a possibility of another round of military base closings next year, and the Valley cannot leave anything to chance.