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Jefferson Barracks' inclusion in report of bases to be closed surprises officials


May 18, 2005 - County officials were surprised to learn the Missouri National Guard facility at Jef-ferson Barracks was among 12 bases earmarked for closure across Missouri in a re-port released Friday by the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

"We had no idea this facility would be on the list,'' County Executive Charlie Dooley told the Call. "We knew the 131st fighter wing at Lambert Field and we were writing letters to prevent that. We'll do everything we can to preserve Jefferson Barracks. That's a national institution.''

County Council Chairman John Campisi of south county said he was disappointed by the decision, but emphasized the hope that the government will recognize the facility's historic importance.

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Citizen soldiers get a lesson in camoflage and concealment while stationed at Jefferson Barracks in 1943.
"Our nation owes the people who served at Jefferson Barracks a debt of gratitude for their service and its contribution to opening the West,'' Campisi said. "I would hope we would get some help from the government to memorialize that service and Jefferson Barracks' historical significance.''

Established in 1826 by Congress, the 1,706-acre site has been the training and staging area for American troops in every military engagement on the North Amer-ican continent. Many of the nation's best military leaders have served at the facility, including Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George S. Patton and John "Black Jack'' Pershing.

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Camp life for soldiers during the American Civil War was no picnic for anyone involved. Here a family checks its belongings outside the family tent.
The facility was declared surplus property by the government in 1946. Four years later, a 420-acre section was given to the county Department of Parks and Recrea-tion; the Jefferson Barracks National Cem-etery was given 307 acres shortly afterward.

Jefferson Barracks currently is home to 300 servicemen and women in two Air National Guard units. The detachment employs 55 full-time civilian employees.

The commission has recommended those individuals be transferred to Lambert Field where the Air Guard's 131st Air Wing is stationed.

"The commission has recommended the 131st to be transferred to Nevada or New Jersey,'' said Capt. Tamara Spicer, spokeswoman for the Missouri Air National Guard. "We're still waiting on details.''

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Members of the United States Air Force Military Police Squadron 866 pass a review stand on the parade grounds at Jefferson Barracks iin 1942.
Missouri would lose 1,167 military jobs, 2,353 civilian jobs and 159 contractors positions in the realignment. Locally the report affects the Defense Finance and Accounting Services and the 131st Air Wing, both in St. Louis, and the facility at Jefferson Barracks.

The commission has until Sept. 8 to present its report to the president.

"We're still trying to find out more about the recommendations,'' U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan told the Call. "I believe they're thinking about building an Armed Forces Reserve Center at Jefferson Barracks. That facility has a lot of assets including the land, buildings and location. If the plan is to bring a new center there it indicates to me their belief in having a continued presence there.''

"Jefferson Barracks has played an important role over the years in south St. Louis County,'' said Steve Taylor, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Todd Akin. "That impact needs to be taken into consideration.''

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