Some 1,000 Pope Field, North Carolina, drilling reservists and 250 Air Force Reserve technicians will be forced to find new jobs in the Air Force as a result of the inactivation of the 440th Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve Command said Thursday.

The service first announced its plans to inactivate the wing a year ago but waited for approval of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act to move forward, AFRC spokesman Col. Robert Palmer said in an email.

Still, the inactivation comes as the Air Force is reviewing its overall force structure to see which missions and aircraft can be moved into the Air National Guard and Reserve.

Palmer said the inactivation was necessary because Congress did not provide the Air Force Reserve with the funding or manpower to continue operating the wing through fiscal 2015.

"The decision to inactivate the 440th Airlift Wing reflects intra-theater airlift needs of the Air Force," Palmer said in an email.

News of the planned inactivation prompted North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., to write to Air Force Secretary Debra Lee James Defense and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, demanding an explanation.

"Prior to his confirmation vote, I had a lengthy discussion with Secretary of Defense Carter about the future of the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Army Airfield," Tillis wrote. "I also raised the issue publicly with Secretary Carter during his hearing. He publicly committed to look into the matter and sit down and discuss the 440th's future with me. With that in mind I am distressed that in spite of Secretary Carter's commitment, the Air Force leadership is proceeding to this matter before he has even had time to fulfill his public assurance."

Tillis' letter continued: "The removal of the 440th AW at Pope Army Airfield creates unreasonable risks to the readiness of these critical airborne units, many of which must be prepared to respond to a range of contingencies on short notice. Moreover, the anticipated deactivation of the 440th AW would come at a time when the nation is facing growing uncertainty abroad that could require a military response-a response that only forces at Fort Bragg can provide."

A Mobility Capabilities Assessment found the Air Force had more intra-theater airlift capacity than is required to support defense strategy, Palmer said.

The 440th Airlift Wing is the Air Force's first reverse associate flying wing, made up of active-duty and Reserve members. It provides operational direction for all active-duty and Reserve C-130 flying operations at Pope.

Drilling reservists who work part-time for the 440th are among the first to be affected by the inactivation, Palmer said. Also affected: full-time support personnel, which includes civilians, Air Reserve technicians, or ARTs, and active guard reservists, who are reservists serving four-year active-duty tours.

Many ARTs and active guard reservists will have the option to stay on through the fall.

Air Force Reserve plans to open a clearinghouse to help many of those affected find new assignments; some may also be eligible for relocation expenses, Palmer said.

"We recognize that force structure changes pose significant challenges for our Reservists and their communities," Palmer said. AFRC "leaders at all levels are committed to doing everything they can to help our Reservists through the transition."

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