Killing ‘Pedro’ bad policy for region, say officials
CHERRY POINT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION — Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow, a group best known by the acronym ACT, welcomes a Congressional push to protect the Marine Corps search and rescue (SAR) mission from being disbanded.
The Marine Corps’ 2015 Aviation Plan called for the phase-out of the local SAR mission, affectionately called ‘Pedro,’ by the end of 2015. A March 25 letter from a bipartisan coalition of North Carolina and Arizona members of the US House called for the prohibition on funds that would be used to disband Marine Corps SAR missions. These “vital units” must not be disbanded at least for next fiscal year, the letter concluded.
“ACT has worked closely with our Congressional delegation to bring our concerns about Pedro to the attention of the Pentagon and key House and Senate committees,” said Pete Rose, who represents ACT in the nation’s capital. “In one of his first joint letters with Rep. Walter Jones, Senator Thom Tillis wrote to the Secretary of the Navy about his serious concerns over Pedro’s future. This most recent letter is a clear signal to the Congress and Pentagon that SAR is a core Marine Corps mission that should not be thrown off,” he added.
“I believe we need to carefully evaluate the full consequences of removing Pedro from the Marine Corps’ capabilities. ACT is concerned that losing Pedro will end MCAS Cherry Point’s role in SAR without a viable replacement plan,” said Greg Lewis, President of ACT.
“If the U.S. Coast Guard werr to assume the SAR mission for eastern North Carolina, the air assets would have to be located outside of the operational training areas for MCAS Cherry Point, and MCB Camp Lejeune. This would result in lengthened response times during critical emergencies, not only for the Marines but also for any Air Force units that Pedro supports in times of emergency,” said Frank Bottorff, Havelock City Manager and former base commanding officer at MCAS Cherry Point.
Bottorff’s comments refer to the Aviation Plan which states — without any details or explanation — that the U.S. Coast Guard will take over Pedro’s over-water SAR responsibilities.
“Although Pedro is a vital part of the Marine Corps presence in our region and is greatly valued by our local citizens, the plan to eliminate SAR from MCAS Cherry Point has not been explained or justified to the local community or our elected officials. ACT feels that the Aviation Plan does not address several key issues critical to MCAS Cherry Point and their civilian partners throughout the local region,” said James Norment, a local member of ACT’s legal and lobbying team.
ACT urges local governments and interested persons to raise important questions about the loss of Pedro. For more information, visit www.alliesforcherrypoint.com or call Marc Finlayson at (252) 617-0757.