Wary and Eager

Two communities in the Florida panhandle have contrasting views of the Air Force’s plan to make Eglin Air Force Base a joint training site for F-35 operations. Valparaiso has gone so far as to launch legal action to get documentation it says the Air Force is withholding. The Northwest Florida Daily News reports that Valparaiso city officials and many residents are concerned, primarily, that the new F-35 mission will generate more noise than the F-15 mission the base is giving up. On the other hand, Fort Walton Beach city officials just passed a resolution supporting the new mission, according to an earlier Daily News report. The Air Force announced last month that it needed more time to study public comments so would delay release of the final Environmental Impact Statement regarding the BRAC 2005 actions that include the F-35 training site and movement of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group to the Eglin-Duke Field area. Meanwhile, Eglin officials have continued to meet with civic leaders, including those from Valparaiso. In a Sept. 24 release, Col. Bruce McClintock, commander of Eglin’s 96th Air Base Wing, said: “We are taking the community’s concerns very seriously. We want to share our knowledge. We’re committed to doing that.”