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Mass. air reserve base to lose 300 jobs

CHICOPEE, Mass. (AP) — Westover Air Reserve Base will lose half its C-5 cargo planes and more than 300 jobs as a result of military budget cuts, base officials announced Monday.

Eight of the 439th Airlift Wing’s massive military transport aircraft will transfer to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas beginning next year, they said.

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Air Force officials, in a statement, blamed Pentagon budget cuts for the changes.

The job cuts include the expected loss of 59 full-time enlisted personnel and 275 drilling reservists, although final numbers have yet to be determined.

Brig. Gen. Steven Vautrain, commander of the air wing at Westrover, said the changes will affect the core mission of the base.

‘‘These reductions will incur hardships on our people,’’ Vautrain said. ‘‘We will take care of our people; we will place as many as possible in other positions within the wing and programs will be available to assist those displaced by this change in force structure.’’

Westover will continue to fulfill its global military mission even after the charges, Vautrain added.

The cuts are part of an effort to slash $487 billion from the nation’s defense budget over eight years.

The C-5 fleet will be upgraded with new engines during the changeover, base officials said. The C-5 is the nation’s largest military aircraft and can carry a payload of up to 270,000 pounds a distance of up to 6,000 miles, according to the base’s website.

The aircraft has been critical in recent U.S. military operations, flying nearly 75,000 hours and transporting more than 200,000 tons of cargo between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2012.

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