By James Beaty
Members of the McAlester Defense Support Association, along with other community representatives, are back in the McAlester following their trip to the nation’s Capitol last week.
MDSA members who helped organize the trip said their purpose is to show community support for the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and the rest of the defense industry in the McAlester area,
While in Washington, the McAlester group met with U.S. senators and congressmen, members of their staffs and with civilian representatives of the Pentagon, among others.
Gene Walker, who is vice chairman of the MDSA, said Tuesday he considered this year’s McAlester Stampede a success.
“It went excellent,” Walker said.
“It demonstrated the community sees the importance of McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and it keeps McAlester in front of the folks in Washington — not only the congressmen, but their staffs, chiefs of staffs and their military legislative assistants.”
Other facilities, such as the U. S. Army Defense Ammunition Center and Choctaw Defense were also represented.
One of the major events revolved around a May 8 reception in Washington, hosted by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who has long been a champion of McAAP and other military installations in Oklahoma.
The McAlester group also met with District 2 U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville, and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R Muskogee, as well as other members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation. Those attending the reception included Inhofe, Mullin and Coburn, along with Oklahoma Republican U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas, Tom Cole, James Lankford, and Jim Bridenstein, as well as U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Others who addressed the McAlester group included Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal.
Hedi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army Acquisition, Logistics and Technology also met with the McAlester group, along with Lt. Gen. William Phillips, the Military deputy/director of the Army Acquisition Corps.
Walker said Tuesday approximately 50 individuals attended last year’s reception, while 76 were at this year’s event, for a 50 percent increase.
Both Westphal and Shyu visited McAAP over the past year, which Walker felt resulted from last year’s McAlester Stampede.
MDSA Chairman Mark Jordan served as master of ceremonies for the reception. Among those representing McAlester were McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison and City Manager Pete Stasiak.
With sequestration and budget cuts hitting the defense industry, Walker said it’s important to show such community support. Another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) meetings is also possible.
“The thing we know is everybody will be affected — there’s no escaping it,” Walker said.
Speaking of the meetings in Washington, Walker said.
What did the McAlester contingent tell those they met with in Washington?
“We told them that number one, we recognize the nation has to do something about overspending.” Walker said the McAlester group realizes there will be tough decisions on where defense spending cuts will be made.
“We just ask that they be smart ones,” Walker said.
“We feel like we can demonstrate McAAP is a very cost-efficient facility — a depot as well as manufacturing.
“That’s what we hope to demonstrate to them as these decisions are made.”
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