MANSFIELD, Ohio – Mansfield-Lahm Air National Guard Base is the preferred location for the first Air National Guard cyberspace wing in the country.
The Department of the Air Force announced the selection of the Ohio base on Aug. 25.
The transformation will support Air Combat Command's future requirements and result in operational mission changes, including an increase of about 175 Airmen and associated infrastructure support at the base.
To advance the new cyberspace mission at Mansfield-Lahm ANG Base, the Air Force is looking to retire eight C-130H Hercules from its aging inventory at the 179th Airlift Wing as part of its fiscal year 2022 budget proposal.
"Retiring these legacy aircraft will create the fiscal and manpower flexibility required to design and field the future force needed to meet national defense requirements," said Lt. Gen. David Nahom, U.S. Air Force Plans and Programs deputy chief of staff.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine applauded the Air Force's announcement.
"Ohio is gaining a leading-edge mission that will strengthen the fabric of the military community and further solidify Ohio as a national leader in cybersecurity excellence," DeWine said in a news release. "Not only will this new mission bring more jobs into the community, but it will also spur more economic growth and create new opportunities for industry and academic growth. This is a tremendous win for Mansfield and for the entire state."
Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio adjutant general, said the selection of the Ohio base would build on the 179th Airlift Wing's legacy of excellence.
"The transition to a cyber wing places the Ohio National Guard at the forefront of leveraging cutting-edge technologies and capabilities for national defense and mitigating emerging threats," Harris said.
Ohio and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were the two locations considered for the cyberspace wing. Among the criteria weighed in the decision were manpower, recruiting and retention; building capacity and connectivity; environmental; construction costs; and cost of living.
Col. Todd Thomas, 179th AW commander, announced the selection to the unit members and said he is confident they are up to the task.
"(It) sets the stage for the journey towards a mission-capable cyber wing. I have high expectations for this new capability and see this as a long-term win for the wing, Mansfield, Ohio, and the nation," Thomas said.
Thomas acknowledged that while he believes this is an opportunity for Mansfield, it is important to acknowledge it will be a difficult transition for the passionate aviation community that helped shape the heritage and culture of the base and surrounding area. The community has supported the airlift mission for generations, dating back to the unit's transition from fighter aircraft to the C-130B model in the 1970s.
"Since becoming the wing commander, I have always told our Airmen we must do everything in our ability to 'keep the front gate open' and flex to whatever mission allows us to be viable well into the future and aligns with the National Defense Strategy," Thomas said. "I am extremely confident (that) our Airmen are capable of shifting focus from tactical air-land and air-drop operations to the cyber battlefield. I look forward to what our Airmen will bring to the cyber fight."
Thomas said wing leadership will help Airmen in aviation-based career fields transition into new roles, whether they stay with the new cyberspace mission or seek other positions across the Air Force.
"The Airmen of the 179th Airlift Wing are confident, resilient and well-suited for whatever the task or mission that comes our way — today and tomorrow," Thomas said. "It's the Mansfield way."