Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Possible Shredding of Flying Tacos Prompts Finger-Pointing; Heinrich In Middle, Plus: How An Enchilada Became A Taco, And: He's Back: Foley Follies
Rep. Heinrich Eyes Tacos
The finger-pointing is starting over why the Tacos may be shredded. We speak, of course, of the NM Air National Guard 150th Fighter Wing stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, employing nearly 1,100 and pumping $25 million a year into the local economy. Yes, ABQ Dem US Rep. Martin Heinrich has managed to get through the US House legislation that would delay the dismantling of the storied Tacos, but getting another permanent mission for them remains an uphill battle. The Wing has 40 fighter pilots and flies aging F-16's that are being retired. The Pentagon has not given the Tacos a new mission, making it clear it is not of a mind to save the wing--unless forced to.
Alarm and the aforementioned finger-pointing is spreading as the prospect of the Tacos getting crunched is fully digested. We have Alligators in the Tacos. Here is an e-mail from one of them with an eye-opening critique of why we reached this point. It's stuff you haven't heard anywhere else:
Here's the dirty little secret. There are plenty of missions we can get into--C130's, CV-22's, helicopters, UAV's (Unmanned aerial vehicles), intelligence and cyber warfare. The list is long and the Air Force desperately needs Guard units to take them...The fighter pilots who run our organization won't hear it. Fighter planes or nothing, and nothing is what we will get. 1,100 good paying jobs will go down the toilet. Some of these new missions would CREATE more jobs!
The National Guard has as much of a state mission as a federal one. You can't rescue anyone with an F-16. C-130's, helicopters, UAV's all have good applications to help save New Mexican lives...C-130's can be equipped to fight forest fires. UAV's can be used to search for stranded hikers, monitor the border, track bad guys, etc.
What's going on with the 150th's mission needs to be brought to light. Hard working, honest New Mexicans are being discarded for the egos of a few fighter pilots. Nobody is calling them out. To do so would end your career. They absolutely blew it by not locking another mission down when (GOP US Senator) Domenici was still in office.
Rep. Heinrich says he wants the Tacos to keep some kind of flying mission--not necessarily as fighters--so they can stay intact until new fighter aircraft can be assigned to the wing. Not insisting on a fighter role, but on any flying mission is a new flexibility, but does Heinrich need to be even more flexible? He says:
"...Keeping (the Tacos) in the air in some form...is critical to continuing to play on their strengths and what they can best offer our armed forces..That's why we've been pushing so hard for...a mission that involves piloting aircraft as opposed...to doing UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or...other missions that we've seen floated."
The flying Tacos have a proud 60 year history, but focusing only on a flying mission when other missions may be available risks getting nothing and adding to the already record unemployment levels afflicting the metro area. This was not a problem of Congressman Heinrich's making---it was left to fester--but now that he owns it, he (and our US Senators) may need to lay down the law and say a Taco on the ground is as appetizing as one in the air.
MORE TACO BLOGGING
Our continuing coverage of the Taco controversy has generated additional e-mail and new blog readers. Chuck "Chuckie" Feurgson is one of the Taco fighter pilots. He sent us this cool history on how the Tacos were once enchiladas.
In the early '50s, the NM Air National Guard did a lot of travelling around the country. Some of our enlisted folks were quite adept at the culinary arts, and made it customary to cook a big enchilada dinner as a farewell gesture to our hosts (a tradition that still holds true to this day). So, we quickly picked up the nickname "The Enchilada Air Force." Soon after, our pilots began flying with the "Enchilada" call sign, and did so up to when we deployed to South Vietnam.
The controllers in Vietnam did not like the call sign "Enchilada" because it had too many syllables and made it difficult to pronounce...Our pilots suggested the call sign "Taco." It worked, and the rest is history. We've been known as "The Tacos" ever since...The 40th anniversary of our return from Vietnam was on June 4th.
Congrats on that anniversary to Chuck and the rest of the Tacos. We're honored to have them checking in here and you can be sure we'll be following their story wherever it leads.
Southern NM Congressman Harry Teague wouldn't say who the generous supporters are who are matching dollar for dollar recent campaign donations. He unveiled the novel pitch in an e-mail message:
Thanks to the generosity of some of my strongest supporters any donation that is made to my re-election campaign before Tuesday, June 30th will be matched dollar for dollar by another supporter.
Sounds like Harry has a telethon going on.
He's long out of the public eye, having lost his Roswell legislative seat to Dennis Kintigh in 2008, but ex-GOP State Rep. Dan Foley might not have taken to heart those election results. KRQE-TV reports Foley, who now lives in Rio Rancho, has continued to drive with the special license plates awarded only to sitting legislators. Foley's pick-up truck was picked up by an ABQ red light camera showing him going 46 mph in a 35 mph zone. The photo also revealed the special legislator license plate. The former House Minority Whip says he was unaware that he was to turn the prestige plates back to the state as soon as he ended his legislative term. The 10 year lawmaker added that he planned to return the plates when they expire so he doesn’t have to pay MVD fees again to re-register his car. Well, he always claimed to be a "fiscal conservative."
Foley now lives in Rio Rancho where he sells insurance. Despite his defeat in Roswell, there is already talk that Foley may try to revive his legislative career by running in 2010 for the Rio Rancho legislative seat held by freshman Dem Jack Thomas. Foley was defeated with major assistance from Roswell oilman Mark Murphy who spent over $250,000 to oust the controversial lawmaker. Look for the checkbook to come out again if Foley tries a legislative re-entry. And you can print that in bold on a license plate.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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