Blake, State Senate Adopt Resolution to Protect Operations of 55th Brigade in Scranton

Scranton55thVideoHARRISBURG, June 22, 2015 – A concurrent state Senate Resolution urging the United States Army to reverse its decision to deactivate the 55th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) in Scranton was unanimously adopted by the state Senate earlier today.

Senate Resolution 149, co-sponsored by state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), also urges the United States Congress to take all necessary action to prohibit any force structure changes; to prohibit any transfer of AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to active duty; and to maintain the PA Army National Guard at 350,200 soldiers until the National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) has reported its findings to the U.S. Army.

Blake released the following statement regarding Senate Resolution 149:

“The continued operation of the 55th Armored Brigade is critically important not only to our state and national security, but to the economic strength of Scranton and Northeastern Pennsylvania. There are more than 3,500 Pennsylvanians who capably and selflessly serve our country as members of the 55th Brigade. These fine men and women deserve unwavering support and we cannot stand by while the Army moves to deactivate this proud and decorated unit.

The geographic presence of the 55th ABCT is important not only in response to the Army’s requests for mobilization, but it is absolutely vital in order to remain agile in response to state and federal emergencies in PA and in our surrounding states.  Further, the National Guard is a tremendous economic value to the Army.  A drilling Guardsman or Woman costs approximately 15% of the cost of Active Duty Soldiers and – even when mobilized by the Army under Title 10 terms and conditions – the National Guard imposes costs at 80 to 95 percent of the cost of Active Duty Soldiers with no loss in quality, reliability or capability.

Several Regiments within the 55th ABCT trace their origin to the Revolutionary War and are among the oldest in Pennsylvania.  These Regiments, including the 109th Infantry, the 109th Field Artillery; the 103rd Armored; and the 104th Cavalry have been decorated for meritorious service in every theater of engagement since, including for recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I commend the efforts of U.S. Senator Bob Casey as well as Congressman Matt Cartwright on this matter and thank all of my colleagues in the Pennsylvania state Senate, particularly, Senator Lisa Baker, Senator John Wozniak, and Senator John Yudichak, for their support of this resolution and the 55th ABCT.”

Sen. Blake is a founding member of the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission (PMCEC) which was recently established under the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.  The PHCEC will work with the Department and with local stakeholders as well as with Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to advance the military value of Pennsylvania’s military installations and to insulate PA from adverse impacts of future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities at the Department of Defense.

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Blake Joins Legislative, Military Leaders at Inaugural Commission Meeting

IMG_2629CARLISLE, April 16, 2015 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today joined legislative and military leaders from across Pennsylvania to discuss the economic importance of Pennsylvania’s military operations at the inaugural meeting of the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission (PMCEC).

The 17-member commission, which was formally established through Act 161 of last year, is tasked with examining and advocating for Pennsylvania’s military installations and the important missions they have which support our state’s economy and our national security.

“With a nearly $3 billion annual economic impact, Tobyhanna Army Depot is arguably the largest economic driver in northeastern Pennsylvania – and it remains the largest industrial employer in our region,” Blake said. “Our commission was created to promote, protect and further develop Tobyhanna and our other fine military installations around the state which employ tens of thousands of hard-working Pennsylvanians.”

The Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission was established under the Department of Community and Economic Development and will coordinate with the department – and also with Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation – to identify potential sources of funding for economic development projects and to monitor the prospective impact of future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities at the Department of Defense.

“I am looking forward to working with my legislative colleagues as well as with economic development professionals and other volunteers on the commission to focus our efforts and activities that will protect and enhance the military value of our defense installations in serving our warfighters,” Blake added. “We are aware that BRAC discussions will occur in Washington D.C. in the years ahead.  We need to work now to ensure Pennsylvania installations and Pennsylvania workers are not endangered by future BRAC decisions.”

Sen. Blake, a founding member of the Military Installations and Base Development Caucus in the General Assembly, will serve on the commission along with state Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Adams/Cumberland) and state Reps. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) and Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware).

The inaugural meeting of the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission was held at Kings Gap Environmental Education Center in Carlisle.

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Blake Saddened at News of Marine’s Death

SCRANTON, August 4, 2011 – – Reflecting, with sadness, on the death of Sgt. Patrick Dolphin, state Sen. John P. Blake today offered sincere condolences to the local Marine’s family and friends.

“Staff Sgt. Dolphin is a local hero and I am deeply saddened with this loss. It is when we lose one of our brave men or women in service that we only begin to glimpse the extraordinary sacrifice they and their families make for our country. Louise and I and our entire family will keep our prayers with Sgt. Dolphin’s friends and family at this very difficult time.”

Staff Sgt. Dolphin, a 2000 graduate of North Pocono High School, died earlier this week while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Dolphin, 29, was serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan after two previous tours in Iraq.

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Blake Announces Formation of Bipartisan Military Installations Caucus

HARRISBURG, May 11, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake today announced the formation of a new bipartisan, bicameral Military Installations and Base Development Caucus to protect Pennsylvania’s 164,000 defense-related jobs and its world-class military bases and facilities around the state.

Blake will serve as co-chairman of the caucus along with state Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Adams/Franklin/York) and state Reps. Scott Perry (R-York/Cumberland) and Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny).

“With the recent mention that the Department of Defense may be convening another Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2015, it is imperative that we start working now to make sure these jobs and the economic activity that comes with them are not lost to other facilities in other states,” Blake said. “In my district, Tobyhanna Army Depot is estimated to produce a total regional annual economic impact of $2.8 billion and its presence alone sustains 18,000 regional jobs. If the legislature is serious about saving and creating jobs, we need to focus attention on the future of our military facilities.”

The Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest, full-service electronics maintenance facility in the Department of Defense and employs about 5,800 people.

Blake said the Military Installations and Base Development Caucus will work to find ways to improve base operations, expand business development opportunities and ensure the long term viability of our military installations. The caucus will also engage with Pennsylvania’s private defense industry; consult with the military and civilian leadership at our facilities throughout the state; and work to ensure more frequent and routine dialogue between state lawmakers and Pennsylvania’s federal Congressional delegation in Washington DC.

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Blake Lauds Courage, Commitment and Sacrifices of 55th Brigade

HARRISBURG, March 10, 2011 – – On the heels of the announcement that area soldiers from the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard will be deployed to the Middle East for the fifth time since 2001, state Sen. John P. Blake today commended the young men and women for their unwavering commitment to protecting our country and advancing America’s ideals.

“I can only imagine how incredibly difficult this deployment, and especially multiple deployments — as is this case here — can be for these soldiers and their families,” Blake said. “These brave young men and women, and their loved ones, need to know that their courage and sacrifice do not go unnoticed or unappreciated in their community.”

Sen. Blake said his father, Jack, served in the Navy during World War II aboard the USS Hissem, a destroyer escort. Mr. Blake also noted the many years he worked for the Lackawanna County Redevelopment Authority where Gino J. Merli, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, served as chairman.

“Hearing the military stories from my father and being in close proximity to Mr. Merli taught me to maintain the utmost respect and admiration for all of our men and women in uniform,” Blake added. “My most sincere wish is for the safety and well-being of all of our soldiers during their tour in the Middle East. We look forward to seeing them all come home safely to their families and loved ones and to the deep thanks and appreciation of their community.”

The 55th Brigade, whose headquarters are in Scranton, will send soldiers to Kuwait to provide security for US bases and convoys in early 2012. Brigade soldiers have previously served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sinai Peninsula.

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