Big Changes Happening at 179th

Transition Brings Opportunity

By now, you’ve most likely seen the big news that Mansfield has been selected as the preferred site for a new Cyberspace Wing – the first in the National Guard. We are extremely proud of the 179th and their long and successful flight history. We are equally excited to see them take on this new mission as a Cyber Warfare Wing and to bring these future facing jobs to Mansfield. This exciting news is a result of a long collaborative effort from partners at the local, state, and federal levels, and the current base leadership. Thanks to all involved!

The future of the airlift mission has been a question for years. Going back to 2005, the 179th was on the list of bases for closure when the community made a massive effort to save the base. One of the results of that effort was an ongoing group that has met ever since to support the base if a similar need arose again. It did, but not in the way that was expected. These local, state, and federal partners – including all elected officials – were ready, knew the issues, and responded very quickly when called upon. Their quick response was a major factor in this successful bid.

The US Air Force is evolving along with the threats that it faces and the technology available. They’ve made the decision that they don’t need as many C-130s in their fleet, but they do need more cyber assets. One of the reasons the 179th was selected for this new mission is because they have been incredibility resilient over recent years. They went through a mission change when they shifted to the C-27 aircraft…and then again going back to the C-130s. They have had 41 different aircraft pass through in the past 11 years, it’s a staggering amount of change, but the 179th is no average wing!

The C-130s will continue to fly over Mansfield because they will continue their mission with excellence until the planes are divested. This change will take months, maybe more than a year. The new cyber mission will take 5 years or more to set up, although some functions will be operable in less time. The base will need to make significant physical adaptations to buildings and train guardsmen in a radically different type of warfare. The 175 new jobs at the Mansfield base will be highly technical. The majority of these jobs will be for part-time Air National Guard members who travel here to work and serve, but there will also be a small increase in full time positions at the base.

This change at the 179th is not only a major undertaking for the wing, but should be transformational for our community. It is difficult for us to attract new IT businesses to the area without an abundance of IT talent. When we train new IT talent, often they leave the community looking for a position in their field. This chicken and egg problem has been vexing us for years. What changes the conundrum is when a major employer decides that they will locate here, and this new cyber mission at the base is filling that role. This means we will see an increased presence of highly skilled cyber warriors spending time in the area. This is a major opportunity for Richland County businesses to recruit these potential employees. Full time employment in the county encourages these folks to relocate and further reinforces our positive net migration from the past decade. Manufacturing and Healthcare, our two largest sectors, will both be benefactors of the talent coming to the area. They have significant need for cyber security specialists, developers, data analysts, and other technology-based careers. Additionally, there are often civilian contractors that like to be located near military bases. This gives us a unique chance to attract those businesses as well. This new Air National Guard mission provides huge opportunities in our community and we should be encouraged by the possibilities. 

As a community, we will have many roles to play in this transition. We will need to welcome new families into our county, and we will need to support and say goodbye to others. When we understand more about the nature of the Cyberspace Wing, we will need to encourage our young people to take a good look at the opportunity – and consider it as a pathway. Richland County has always been a supportive partner of the 179th and those who serve there – and we will need to mirror their resilience, flexibility, and readiness as they prepare and execute this transition. 

Barrett Thomas
Director of Economic Development

Clint Knight
Director of Workforce Development