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Ground broken on Moon Township support center for Naval Reserve

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 11:28 a.m.
A color guard stands, Saturday, October 6th, 2012, in the place where a Navy Operational Support Center will be constructed at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held to mark the construction of the new facility. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

The Navy Reserve broke ground Saturday morning for a $14.6 million building on the grounds of the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon, which local leaders hope could save the endangered Air Force Reserve base.

The 30,600-square-foot Navy Operational Support Center, near Pittsburgh International Airport, is expected to open in spring 2014.

The building will house offices, training space and medical and fitness areas that can accommodate 300 Navy reservists. It also will be used for joint training with 911th reservists, officials said.

“I think this center actually helps us keep the 911th open,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair.

In February, the Air Force announced plans to close the Moon air base by September 2013 and said the move could save $354 million over five years.

Political pressure from Murphy and other local leaders prompted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to suspend the would-be closure at least until Congress finishes work on a new budget.

“When our servicemen and women are deployed, so much of what they do is integrated,” Murphy said, noting members of different branches routinely combine forces to conduct joint military operations. “We will have experience doing that here through the joint training opportunities.”

“The 911th Airlift Wing is an important part of our national defense and local economy,” Larry Maggi, the Democratic candidate for Murphy's seat, said in a statement. Maggi did not attend the groundbreaking, but said later he would continue the fight to keep it open.

Vice Admiral Robin R. Braun, chief of the Navy Reserve, called the project a “great step forward for the Navy Reserve in the Pittsburgh region.”

The Navy Reserve's current support center in North Versailles was built on an old slag pile and its foundation has shifted and cracked over the years, said Lt. Cmdr. Denise M. Judge, commanding officer of the support center. The North Versailles center will close when the one in Moon opens.

The new Navy Reserve center will increase the military presence in Moon, already home to the 911th, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 171st Refueling Wing and the Army Reserve's 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. A $15 million military commissary is being built next to the 316th on Business Loop 376.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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