Valdosta Air Force base will train Afghan pilots

Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta will be the site of a training mission for Afghan Air Force pilots, a boost for a base that had been threatened with cuts.

The Pentagon announced Friday that Afghan pilots will train on the A-29 Super Tucano Light Air Support plane at Moody. The base near the Florida border beat out locations in Idaho and South Carolina because of superior facilities, weather and proximity to the ranges the pilots will need.

The Pentagon has sought to phase out the aging A-10 aircraft, which forms a big part of Moody’s mission, though Congress has blocked the move this year. As a result, Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican, said this mission’s meaning goes beyond the 30 Afghan pilots and 90 maintenance personnel who will soon be heading to Valdosta.

“At some point, the A-10 mission is going to radically be reduced, and what we’ve been trying to do is find other missions for Moody in the interim,” Kingston said in a phone interview.

“This isn’t a long term mission, but it’s a valuable mission. … It fills a potential hole, but it underscores the relevance of Moody, Moody’s importance to the national mission.”

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said he was pleased to see the state be part of an ongoing alliance with Afghanistan.

“We cannot abandon Afghanistan at a critical point in its history, and this plan ensures our airmen can conduct this important training mission from the safety of one of our premier U.S. bases,” Chambliss said in a press release. “I’m proud Georgia is doing its part in this mission. ”