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Congressman and colleagues still fighting to keep Savannah CRTC from closing

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Happening now - nearly fifty pilots of ultra modern fighter jets like these have been sharpening their skills in a huge stretch of airspace just off the Georgia coast, over the past few weeks.

It’s all part of the Sentry Savannah exercises hosted at Savannah’s Combat Readiness Training Center.

But that could all change, if cuts that eliminate funding for the center in the proposed 2023 Presidential budget are approved.

WTOC spoke with Congressman Buddy Carter about the fight to keep the center open.

As we’ve heard from him in recent weeks, Congressman Buddy Carter hammered home the point that he believes with everything going on around the world, specifically between Russia and Ukraine, that assets like the Combat Readiness Training Center are needed now more than ever.

“Potentially, but hopefully not, potentially we could be on the brink of World War 3. And here we have a President who has submitted a budget that does have some good things in it, but unfortunately suggests that we close down a combat readiness training center. We ought to be doing just the opposite,” said Rep. Carter.

Today, Carter met with leaders of the Georgia Air National Guard, and the CRTC, to talk about the work to keep the Center open. In the weeks since word of the proposed closure came out, Representative Carter says there’s been a bi-partisan push to change minds in Washington. That included Carter’s testimony on April 28th at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Rep. Carter said, “Keep in mind, this is the beginning, it’s not the end. This is the beginning of the process, and we are going to be there throughout this process to make sure that this stays open, because not only is it vitally important to our community, to our state…but it’s vitally important to the United States and our national defense.”

Rep. Carter also asked the House Armed Services Committee for an additional $5 million for operations maintenance for the Air National Guard to support training and operations here. Carter also said $6.5 million is needed to cover the ANG personnel who support those assigned to the CRTC.

Unless funding for the center is added to the budget, the CRTC would close next April.

What sets the CRTC and the training they do there is, in part, the airspace available to the airmen. According to Sentry Savannah Exercise Coordinator, Lt. Col. Stephen Tracker Thomas, pilots can fly at altitudes up to 60,000 feet, and at times supersonic speeds.

“It’s one of the only airspaces in the United States where we’re able to execute the blue tactics to train against that near-peer adversary,” said Lt. Col. Thomas.

Thomas continued, “I can’t emphasize enough that the Savannah CRTC is one of the only locations that can execute this type of training, from our classified space, to our large ramp space to be able to host this many aircraft, as well as the airspace that we’re flying in.”

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