Beale AFB squadron deactivation ‘painful’ process |

Beale AFB squadron deactivation ‘painful’ process

Ben van der Meer
Special to The Union

The roughly 200 members of the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base – about one-fourth of them Yuba-Sutter residents – have seven months to figure out where they will land next.

After learning their reserve squadron will be deactivated at the end of September, those members have less time than any prior deactivation, according to base officials on a conference call Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, it's going to be a very painful and difficult process," said Lt. Col. Faustino Perez, maintenance operations officer for the 13th, whose primary role was reserve support for the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 mission. Perez said the blow is doubly painful because many of the 196 squadron reservists moved into serving the Global Hawk mission after a tanker refueling group was eliminated in 2008.

"We're going through it again with some of the same folks," he said.

Tech. Sgt. John Alimenti, a Plumas Lake resident, said his situation is even more precarious because his wife is also a reservist and because he's a "full-time" reservist who works at the base during the week, in addition to serving reserve duty there on some weekends.

"Now, I'm not sure what the future holds," said Alimenti, a propulsion specialist. "We spend years training people and even more time perfecting the trade."

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Some squadron members may find roles with other reserve units at Beale, and others may retrain for other roles, base officials said.

The commander of the 940th Wing, the primary reserve unit at Beale, said the Air Force's decision to deactivate the 13th is connected neither to expected March 1 budget cuts nor the performance of the squadron members, who he said had showed commendable professionalism.

"We understand that it's budget driven," said Col. Kevin Cavanagh. "My main focus in the next seven months is to take care of all the 940th citizen airmen."

From who backs up active-duty airmen serving the Global Hawk unmanned drones to an $11 million annual hit to the local economy, the deactivation of the 13th Reconnaissance Squadron will be felt at Beale Air Force Base and beyond.

Lt. Col. Scott Hinkle, the squadron's commander, said in recent years, reservists from the 13th had assisted in relief efforts for the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and wildfires in Southern California.

"We're here to support active duty," he said, adding squadron members contribute about 147,000 maintenance hours annually.

Deactivation means a shift in duties for the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron, an active-duty group at Beale that, like the 13th, serves the RQ-4 Global Hawk mission.

Capt. Brian Wagner, a spokesman for Beale's 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said the seven-month period when the 13th is wound down will partly consist of figuring out how it affects the 12th.

Off base, there will be an impact to the area's economy. Michelle Ashton, the financial management officer for the 13th, said the $11-million local impact figures in both direct spending from squadron member salaries and indirect jobs created, as well as actual purchases by the squadron.

"The impact will be felt over several cities," she said, pointing out squadron members live in Sacramento, Chico, Roseville and Grass Valley as well as Yuba-Sutter.

Of the 196 reservists in the squadron, 43 live in either Yuba City, Marysville, Wheatland or Plumas Lake, according to base figures.

Ben van der Meer is a reporter with the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at or 530-749-4786.

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