The 914th Airlift Wing was re-designated Saturday morning as the 914th Air Refueling Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. This marks the beginning of the base's new mission focus which will primarily be aerial refueling.
This also signals the end of a 46-year legacy of flying the C-130 military transport planes. The base is transitioning to KC-135 Stratotankers as part of its new mission.
The mission is a welcome sign for many in Western New York who fought to keep the base open in the face of military downsizing and base closures in past years.
"After having so many near death experiences with this base--2005 with BRAC and 2012 when I was a member of Congress--to know that our future is looking as clear as the skies, that's really reassuring," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.
Officials say the nature of these new missions provide security for the air base and indicate a long future ahead.
"All of the discussions we're having now--you hate to say BRAC-proof--but these are the missions of the future," U.S. Representative Chris Collins explained.
"This is a great day," 914th Air Refueling Wing Commander Colonel Brian Bowman said. "Not only for our 914th Air Refueling Wing, but for Western New York and what this wing and entire base means to this community. But more importantly, what it means for the defense of our nation."
The base employs 3,000 people either full or part-time, making it Niagara County's largest employer.