NORTH POLE, Alaska — On the outskirts of North Pole, about 10 miles along the Richardson Highway from Eielson Air Force Base, sits Little Richard's Family Diner. Customers chow down on the restaurant’s many specialties, including buffalo burgers -- but these days, they’re also filled with concern about the base’s future.
“If there's any one topic that's discussed at this counter all day long, that’s it -- people are worried,” said diner owner Edward Richards. “I hear it all day long.”
The Air Force first proposed the transfer of 21 F-16 Falcon fighter jets from Eielson to Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in early February, issuing a report on “USAF Force Structure Changes” that said the move would “achieve savings in base support at Eielson” starting in fiscal year 2015.
Air Force officials have since said Eielson will continue to have a purpose after the transfer, citing its role in Alaska’s annual Red Flag training exercises, which see “blue” forces fly from JBER in a mock air war against “red” aggressor squadrons at Eielson -- including the F-16s the military wants to move.