Few Fort Rucker cuts good for SARA

Published 12:04 am Friday, July 17, 2015

South Alabama Regional Airport officials are breathing sighs of relief after it was announced that cuts at Fort Rucker would not be as drastic as predicted earlier this year.

According to Rep. Martha Roby’s office, the force will be reduced by 186 soldiers or 6 percent – not the 40 percent cut feared by many.

“And as of right now, this won’t affect the aviation student load,” she said. “Those are both positives.”

That’s extremely positive news for SARA, who supplies, on average, between 800,000 and 900,000 gallons of fuel annually to students at Fort Rucker.

“We are going to keep maintaining what we have been doing over the last four or five years,” said SARA Co-Director Jed Blackwell. “In our budgeting process, which we are about to begin, we are going to plan just like we have over the last few years.”

Blackwell said the airport would be able to keep all 39 employees.

Blackwell said they are holding steady and was slightly ahead of last year by 3,000 gallons in June and 2,000 gallons in May.

In 2014, they pumped 762,000 gallons and have already pumped 675,000 through June.

The airport received its first refueling contract in 1991 and the contract took the airport from a small airport to a regional airport.

Blackwell said he expects fuel sales to continue to increase.

The reason is that the Army is switching over to a Lakota helicopter, which Blackwell said has a bigger engine and requires more fuel.

“We were hoping that across the board cuts would not happen,” Blackwell said. “But we are happy that it wasn’t worse at Fort Rucker. They are our lifeline. We are relieved. Personally, I hate to see there are cuts anywhere in the military, but for us this is good news.”