Same Mission, Fewer Hands for Lajes

The Air Force is cutting personnel at Lajes Field, Azores, reducing its contingent there from a wing down to a group to meet Pentagon cost-cutting demands, announced Lajes officials on Thursday. “Lajes Field’s strategic mission is important and valuable, and will not change, but the footprint with which we accomplish our mission will,” said Col. Chris Bargery, commander of Lajes’ 65th Air Base Wing, in a Dec. 13 release. “The US force posture is being adjusted to meet fiscal challenges, while maintaining a strong, capable relationship with our Portuguese allies,” he added. Along with the wing’s transition to a group, 400 uniformed personnel and 500 dependents will depart the installation by the end of Fiscal 2014, states the release. Those moves are expected to save $35 million annually, according to base officials. As part of these changes, the Air Force plans to close Lajes’ Defense Department school and disallow airmen from bringing their families on one-year tours to the Azores after 2014.