Gov. Baker visits Barnes for Taxiway Sierra groundbreaking

U.S. Rep. Neal calls Barnes a success story

WESTFIELD – Gov. Charlie D. Baker visited Barnes Air National Guard Base May 27 for the official groundbreaking of the Taxiway Sierra project.

Gov. Charlie Baker is greeted by Col. David Halasi-Kun, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing during a visit May 27, 2021. (MARC ST. ONGE/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

The project, which is well underway and is expected to be complete in September, aims to expand the capabilities and capacity for the airport on both the civilian and military sides. The project was funded with a $4.7 million allocation from the 2014 Military Bond Bill authorization in Massachusetts. 

The groundbreaking was preceded by speeches from Gov. Baker and other state, local, and military officials. 

Baker said that he had been in Washington, D.C. two weeks before, and he had visited a group of 450 National Guardsmen from New England standing on the steps of the Capitol Building. 

“The thing I kept thinking to myself as I was talking to them and shaking their hands, is the incredible diversity of the guard, all wearing exactly the same outfit, and there for the same purpose and same mission,” said Baker. 

He spoke about the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, which is in part designed to explore investment opportunities in and around the six major military installations across the state.

“Almost nobody has this kind of program in place and has the ability to actually spend state funds to support their bases and to participate on a collaborative basis with real money to invest in their assets,” said Baker. 

Numerous individuals, including Gov. Charlie Baker, Congressman Richard Neal, and Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new taxiway at Barnes Municipal Airport. (MARC ST. ONGE/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Col. David Halasai-Kun, vice commander of the 104th Fighter Wing, said that the Taxiway Sierra project would make it so that neither military or civilian aircraft would need to back-taxi for maintenance or refueling. 

“It further supports the F-15C flying training and the aerospace control alert mission by p[providing a location for hot pit refueling and rapid combat sortie regeneration,” said Halasi-Kun.  

Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. described Barnes as one of the jewels of the City of Westfield. He said that the continued investment in the airport has paid off for the city. 

“Airplanes are very mobile. They can go anywhere. They don’t need to be located in western Mass., and those jobs don’t need to be located in western Mass.,” said Humason, “But because we have shown so much investment in this airport, the jobs come here. Companies like Gulfstream, and others, come here.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito addressed the importance of the combination of Memorial Day weekend and the May 29 reopening date for Massachusetts. 

“If there is ever a time where we can appreciate the work of our service men and women, it is after a year of living through a pandemic,” said Polito.

She said the investment in the Taxiway Sierra project would attract more business and families to the airport in the future. 

Massachusetts Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe said that the investment in Taxiway Sierra project has taken what he said is one of the top two percent fighter units in the ANG and put them at “a higher echelon.”

He said that he and Baker had recently been in Washington, D.C. where they spoke with Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr., who told them that Barnes is “the benchmark that others are measured by.” 

Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts’ 1st District took the opportunity to thank the National Guard and its members for their role in securing the U.S. Capitol Building after Jan. 6, after a mob supporting former-President Donald J. Trump stormed the building to disrupt the certification of President Joseph R. Biden’s election. 

“Within a matter of hours after the guard showed up, the Capitol was pacified,” said Neal, “I never thought I would see the day that the guard would be doing preparations behind the Capitol with the fencing, but you deserve a round of applause and gratitude from all of us for what you did.”

He went on to say that Barnes is a success story because of its combination of civilian and military use and investment. 

“This is a really good economic story coupled with the vocational academy,” said Neal, “Those students come out and they go to work right away, here.”

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