Naval Air Station Fallon pumps millions of dollars into the Northern Nevada Economy, with money spent at restaurants and small businesses. Now those businesses are hoping sequestration cuts won't affect the Navy's training schedule.
NAS Fallon plays an important role in training U.S. Navy pilots, but with the sequestration cuts some things are up in the air. Navy Captain Rinehart Wilke is the Commanding Officer of the Base. He says changes may be coming, but he hasn't heard what they will be. "Our purpose is to train carrier air wings; to train them to go to combat. We will still do production of combat warriors here at NAS Fallon, the question is how many air wings come through here," said Wilke.
Each air wing brings upwards of 2,000 people to NAS Fallon, and they stay for two weeks to a month at a time. Air wing training usually happens several times a year, but now there are rumors of services being cut and possible furloughs. The full impact of cuts will be felt over time, but cuts to the military budget at the Navy base could have a trickle-down effect out in town."
Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford hopes politicians in Washington will come to some kind of agreement to avoid cuts at the base. "When those air wings don't come to town, that means there aren't people coming into shop at our stores or eat at our restaurants. But also the people who train those air wings are people who live here," he said.
Small businesses like the Slanted Porch restaurant depend on customers from the Navy base. Sous Chef Kelli Kelly looks forward to air wings coming to town. "We have worked to build up that business. The Navy are great supporters of the restaurant, so we would certainly see an impact to our business if there were less navy personnel here in Fallon," said Kelly. And what affects the restaurant, affects employees. "The busier we are, the more hours we have, the more people we employ," she said.
At the base, training continues for now as scheduled. Even so, military and civilian workers are waiting to see how the sequester cuts might affect them. Captain Wilke is waiting to hear what changes may be on the way, but he knows the mission at Fallon is important. "You're not going to have an air wing deploy that doesn't go through here and get the appropriate training," he said. "We've learned from the past that training here at Fallon, Nevada is vital."