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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Lawmakers: Keep Tacos Flying
By Charles D. Brunt
Journal Staff Writer
Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both D-N.M., say they'll continue working to find the New Mexico Air National Guard's 150th Fighter Wing known as the Tacos since their days in Vietnam a viable military mission.
Maj. Gen. Kenny Montoya, adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard, said last week the Pentagon's plans to cap purchases of the new F-22 Raptor which the 150th had hoped would replace its 23 aging F-16 Fighting Falcons would likely end the Tacos' 61-year history as a fighter wing.
Although the Pentagon plans to speed up purchases of the less-costly F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, Montoya said those fighters wouldn't be available to the 150th until several years after the F-16s are mothballed.
In statements released Saturday, Bingaman and Udall said they're working to keep the Tacos, based at Kirtland Air Force Base, flying.
"Long before the Pentagon announced its plans to stop production of the F-22s, I was working hard to ensure the Tacos maintained a flying mission," Bingaman's statement says. "The Tacos have proven to be very valuable to our nation and I will be working with the entire congressional delegation to ensure they continue to fill that important role."
"For over 60 years, Kirtland's 150th Tacos have made New Mexico and our nation proud," Udall's statement says. "In an effort to keep the Tacos flying from Kirtland, our delegation has been working to find them a new mission to continue supporting the defense of our great nation. The Tacos are an important part of New Mexico's National Guard history and our state's proud tradition of military service. I will continue fighting to ensure the unit also plays an important role in our state's military future."
Kirtland spokeswoman Connie Rankin declined Monday to speculate on what impact the loss of the 150th's F-16s might have on the base.