Defense Secretary to Visit Falls Airbase

August 6, 2012 Updated Aug 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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August 6, 2012 Updated Aug 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM EDT

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) - The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station may have a new ally in efforts to save the facility.

Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will visit and tour the base this Thursday morning to meet with hundreds of servicemen and women who are hoping the base, and their jobs, will stay in Western New York.

Panetta agreed to visit the base in March after receiving a personal invitation from Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-Williamsville).

The 107th Airlift Wing, a unit of the Air National Guard, is scheduled to lose its mission, along with more than 800 jobs and three C-130 aircraft under a cost-saving plan by the Pentagon.

Hochul is trying to secure a new mission for the 107th.

“After working closely with Secretary Panetta over the past year, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to tour the Air Base with him personally," Hochul said.

"As the sole military installation in the area, the Air Reserve Station plays a vital role in protecting the security of our nation, our region, and our local community. I am looking forward to the opportunity to show the Secretary the strategic importance of the Niagara Air Base," she said.

The 914th Airlift Wing, a unit of the Air Force Reserves, will continue to operate at the base under the current plan.

Panetta will deliver remarks to about 200 military and civilian staff at the base Thursday at 10 a.m.