FOLEY – Foley and the U.S.Navy are working to expand a cooperative arrangement more than 80 years old with an agreement for the city to provide services at Barin Field.
The Foley City Council approved a letter of intent with the Navy’s Whiting Field in Florida. City Administrator Mike Thompson said the proposal would allow Foley to perform work at Barin Field, but does not obligate the city to any specific duties.
“What we’re doing is entering into an arrangement with Whiting Field that would allow the city to perform some work that they might need to have done over at Barin Field,” Thompson said.. “This is something that they’ve tested around the country with local governmental agencies, either municipalities or counties where they seek out a local government agency to try to manage some of the services that they might need over there.”
Randy Roy, naval operational liaison officer with Whiting Field, said similar agreements in other areas have reduced costs for the Navy. He said local governments often have more resources available at lower prices than the Navy.
“You’re talking about basic things that we normally pay for, roads, maybe some repairs, things that you typically have within your bandwidth which you already support,” Roy said. “It’s whether or not those things come to fruition. There’s no dollars that are coming from your coffers to go to this.”
Roy said Foley and South Alabama have a long tradition of supporting the Navy. Barin Field has been a training site for Navy aviators since the facility opened as a base in 1942. Today, the field is not an active base, but is still used for Whiting Field training flights.
“The folks that live here in this area support the Navy,” Roy said. “I don’t think you get enough credit from the United States of America. We talk to your senior leadership a lot about the importance of what this area does for the United States Navy and national defense strategy.”
He said Foley’s recent designation by the National Park Service as an American World War II Heritage City is one recognition of the city’s long-time support for the military and national defense.
Roy said locations such as Barin Field and other sites in Alabama play a key part in military aviation training.
“The ability to do what we do at Whiting Field cannot be done without Alabama,” he said. “There are six of our airfields located in Alabama that we fly at. We’ve got two over here, Barin Field and Summerdale. We have others on the other side of Alabama.”
He said 60% of the pilots trained for the Navy or Marine Corps have flown over Alabama as part of their training. All Naval helicopter pilots have trained in the area.
“Just to mention how busy that is, if you were to take all of the aircraft that fly in the United States Navy on an annual basis, 18% of it is over these skies, here and in Florida,” he said. “If you put that number on there, it’s about 1.3 million operations. Atlanta only does about 700,000 to 800,000 operations a year.”
He said that level of operation would not be possible without the help of Foley’s government and citizens.
“The metric that you guys meet to allow us to do that and to have the flexibility and support that you guys have always given us is absolutely not expanded enough and not given to you enough credit so I just want to say that on behalf of the skipper and the base,” Roy said. “Literally, the footprint that you see across the nation cannot be supported without you guys here in Alabama.”
Council President Wayne Trawick said the partnership between Foley and the Navy has worked well for both the city and the military.
“The Navy is super to work with,” Trawick said. “They have been a good partner with whatever has come up. They’ve helped us on a lot of occasions.”