Reducing the national debt hits home Thursday, as more than 500 jobs are being cut at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins.
For the most part the cuts include office jobs that make sure the operation runs smoothly. 600 people will be asked to retire or leave on their own by October of 2012 to offset the cuts. Even though this is a difficult move, base officials and public leaders say the cuts were less than expected.
"If this were going to happen in a community, I can think of no better community to be in to watch the support than this one right here," said Major General Robert McMahon, RAFB.
General McMahon remains positive while relaying a difficult message that 516 positions will be cut from Robins Air Force Base. To make those cuts happen 600 people will be asked to retire or leave their jobs. Now, nationwide, the Air Force will begin consolidating the materiel command centers from 12 to 5.
"The decisions that have been made today have nothing to do with performance it's simply that our Air Force and our Department of Defense have to accept some of the responsibility for reducing the financial challenges our nation faces," said General McMahon.
The jobs lost at Robins will mostly come from the Air Logistics Center and Aerospace Sustainment. Most of these positions are office jobs that focus on smoothing out the operation, and maintenance workers will not be affected.
The 402nd Maintenance Wing will be renamed Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex and both it and the 78th Air Base Wing will report to a new Air Force Sustainment Center in Tinker, Oklahoma.
Local leaders try to find the positives in a tough economic outlook.
"We're going to make our self more efficient here at Robins Air Force Base. Listening to the general we're actually going to have still more employees at Robins Air Force Base than we did five years ago," said Senator Ross Tolleson, District 20.
Base officials are already working with the community leaders to find opportunities for those left jobless.
"We're going to make the best out of this. Those 600 employees we wish them the best. I really like the fact that the chamber of commerce may do a job fair," said Warner Robins Mayor, Chuck Shaheen.
With additional cuts likely coming in the future, the competitiveness of Robins and the middle Georgia area becomes even more important.
"We've not slowed up on our encroachment issues that we're going to work on with the base. We're also working with the communities around Robins Air Force Base on that," said Senator Tolleson.
"Looking at what we can do to make Robins more inviting. Anything we can do to bring more missions to Robins Air Force Base," said Mayor Shaheen.
Thursday RAFB issued the first wave of a $25-thousand incentive to 260 people. A second round of the incentive will go out at the first of 2012.
The total job reduction will be completed by October of next year.
According to General McMahon, over the last five years RAFB has added 1400 jobs and McMahon also says that 96% of employees will not be impacted by the cuts.