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National Guard planning new aviation base in Billings

BILLINGS – The Montana Department of Military Affairs went public Monday with plans to develop a National Guard Aviation Base near Billings Logan International Airport.

“So the project we’re working on is to develop a Limited Army Aviation Support facility in Billings,” Col. James Wilkins told Yellowstone County commissioners at their regular meeting.

The state military affairs department oversees the National Guard.

The new facility in Billings would provide support to eastern Montana.

“There’s one facility right now, and it’s in Helena,” Colonel Wilkins said.

Agency officials aim to build a permanent facility adjacent to the airport, but in the meantime, they plan to lease a facility from the Billings Flying Service.

“Six aircraft would be stationed here in Billings and provides capabilities on the civil side,” Wilkins said. For example, providing resources for Medivac Aircraft and Search and Rescue.

“[It] allows our aviation team and crew members to do their training here in the Billings area,” Wilkins said.

A satellite classroom would be implemented for remote training, as well as reducing travel time to the current National Guard center in Helena.

The center would be an asset to the community of Billings by increasing jobs, and expanding the area’s tax base and capability of resources, according to Wilkins.

The facility will employ eight to 10 full-time employees, and on drill weekends, around 60 people will be on site.

“It’s exciting. I think it’s exciting for the community, and it’s exciting for the National Guard,” Wilkins said.

The project is still in the planning stages and will undergo an environmental assessment. If the project gains approval, a temporary facility would be operating within about a year. The permanent facility would go online in about four to five years, Wilkins said.

The county and other agencies will hold public hearings and take comment before it opens.

-Reported by Jenny Fick/MTN News

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