Whenever someone asks me what makes Utah so unique, I tell them about the “greatest snow on earth” at our Wasatch ski resorts and the “greatest earth on show” in our canyon country. I talk about Temple Square, our pioneer heritage, five national parks, world-class universities and the sun and fun of St. George and Lake Powell. I also tout our dietary supplement, medical device, high-tech, aerospace and defense-related industries, just to name a few.
But most of all, I talk about my fellow Utahns, the ones who are most responsible for making Utah a great place to work and raise a family. I mention the time-honored values we espouse such as virtuous living, civic-mindedness and giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. And I note that we are unapologetic patriots, which is why we place such a premium on Hill Air Force Base and its pivotal role in keeping America safe and our military the best and best-equipped in the world.
Without reservation, I am proud to say that our exceptional workforce at Hill is second to none –not only in what they produce but also in the know-how and polished professionalism they bring to the job. They exemplify some of our best and brightest minds and epitomize so much of what is right about Utah.
Of course, telling is one thing, showing another.
This past week, at my invitation, U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley toured the base. It was an opportunity to showcase Hill’s unrivaled efficiency and its importance to our nation’s defense.
That is critically important when President Obama wants to slash our military budget by nearly a half-trillion dollars instead of act responsibly to reduce our nearly $16 trillion national debt. It is all the more so when the Administration is talking about having another round of military base closures.
Simply put, our nation cannot afford to lose Hill. Donley’s tour served to underscore that fact. Among other things, the Secretary saw the fact that Hill, in addition to being the service’s “Fighter Depot,” is the one-stop shop for the Air Force’s training and equipping needs.
It is the preferred choice for the first three squadrons of the F-35A Lightning II, formerly known as the Joint Strike Fighter, and is home to the Ogden Air Logistics Center, which provides repair, maintenance, modification and life-cycle management for the F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt, C-130 Hercules and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
Another key component is the Landing Gear Technical Repair Facility that maintains 70 percent of all Department of Defense aircraft landing gear. There’s also the base’s exceptional work on “stealth” composite materials, such as for the B-2 bomber. And there is the Utah Test and Training Range, the largest of its kind in the continental U.S. Its importance, not only to our aviators but also to our allies who train there, cannot be overstated.
Taken individually, any one of those components highlights Hill’s importance; together, they provide irrefutable evidence of just how valuable the base and its 22,000 workers are to our national security. They attest to the fact that for more than 70 years, Hill personnel have led the way in ensuring the greatest military the world has ever known has the tools and other resources it needs to keep up free.
Yes, we do need to get government spending under control, but closing Hill and jeopardizing our security is the wrong way to go about it. I will continue to work with other members of our congressional delegation, Gov. Gary Herbert, state legislators and other leaders across Utah to ensure that does not happen.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah