Apr 10, 2012 9:24 AM by AP
ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - The Air Force has proposed disbanding a Louisiana National Guard air traffic control squadron based at England Airpark in Rapides Parish.
The Town Talk reports that the news surprised Louisiana's congressional delegation and local officials.
The 259th Air Traffic Control Squadron's 110 members control the movement of all aircraft in the airspace surrounding Alexandria International Airport. In addition to manning the air traffic control tower, the unit provides radar, navigation and communication support.
A news release from the England Authority states that the members oppose the closure and will work with the offices of U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander to reverse the decision.
"The 259th has been a critical part of the success of Alexandria International Airport and our support of Fort Polk," said William Barron, England Authority chairman. "The England Authority will be working with all of Central Louisiana to reverse this decision."
In 1997, the 259th took over operations of Alexandria International Airport's control tower, but Fort Polk, 55 miles west in Vernon Parish, kept overall control of the air space and radar capability.
A new ground control approach system installed at the airport in August 2011 gave the 259th more responsibility over military air traffic to provide radar and airport surveillance services, the Guard reported at the time.