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NDAA shields Peoria's 182nd Airlift Wing from mission reductions

U.S. Air National Guard

This year's defense bill will keep the Peoria 182nd Airlift Wing's C-130-H cargo planes in the skies.

The fate of the aging C-130H fleet's continuing mission in Peoria has been called into doubt, as the Air Force looks to gradually replace the planes with newer C-130J's.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth says she doesn't want to see the older planes grounded in Peoria until their replacements are on the tarmac.

"I don't want them to come back and say, 'OK, we'll give you the J's or some other aircraft, but in the meantime, we're going to take the aircraft you have, and we promise to send you the latest model later.' I won't accept that, because that is the first step towards losing the mission altogether," Duckworth said.

The 182nd Airlift Wing supports 1,250 Airmen and 370 full-time employees in Peoria.

"I'm going to still continue to push for the J's and maybe even a new generation of aircraft that may not be C-130s, but there will always be aircraft flying the mission," she said. "Because let me tell you, this air wing, they are a top performer."

NDAA also changes how sexual assault cases are handled

Duckworth is applauding a move in this year's National Defense Authorization Act to remove authority to prosecute military sexual assault cases from the chain of command.

"I think that's really critical," she said. "Because what has happened in the past is that we have had commanders protect the folks that were bad actors by deciding not to continue with an investigation. They didn't listen to the victims; they didn't believe the victims."

The NDAA instead moves that authority to military lawyers independent of the command chain. This comes after the White House report released last July recommended changes as part of a deeper look at changing how sexual assault allegations and cases are handled within the military.

Independent commission will examine U.S. handling of Afghan war

A provision creating an independent Afghanistan War Commission is included in the $770 billion annual defense bill passed by Congress.

The commission's creation was proposed by Duckworth. She says it's important to assess how the war played out, and what could have been done better.

"We can't get into another situation in the future like we did in Afghanistan," she said. "We may. We may. There may be a conflict in Africa that's brewing, so we need those lessons learned so that we don't make the same mistakes in other areas of the world should a similar situation arise."

Duckworth said the independent, nonpartisan commission bars participation from anyone involved in managing the 20-year conflict - including lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The United States withdrew the last of its forces from Afghanistan in August. The Taliban has retaken control of the nation's government.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.