Matthew Barker, an attack wing commander with the Texas Air National Guard, detailed the mission and future goals of the airmen at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base during a July 30 webinar hosted by the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
Ellington Field, which was established in 1917 by the U.S. Army Air Corps, is an airport for both the military and the public located about 17 miles southeast of downtown Houston, according to slides presented at the webinar. About 1,000 people train under Barker at the base; roughly 30% of the workforce is full time, but Barker said the rest are “right alongside you” in the community working other jobs.
“This is a family business, and we are your neighbors,” he said.
The Air National Guard will announce the locations of two F-35 Lightning II fighter jet bases in 2024, and Ellington’s long history as a fighter unit makes the base a top contender for this designation, Barker said. The U.S. is also looking for a headquarters for its Space Force, and Gov. Greg Abbott has communicated to the federal government that Ellington should be highly considered for this as well, he said.
The base has a convenience store, as well as space for a small restaurant and barber shop, but the way it is set up does not allow for much growth with amenities, he added.
The MQ-9 Reaper planes, which are capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight, are now flying local training missions from Ellington and can do combat operations anywhere in the world, Barker said, adding these planes are being used more and more often in military operations. Generally, any aircrafts flying locally will be close to the field because taking off and landing is the most difficult skillset, he said.
Compared to other attack wings, the 147th Wing at Ellington is one of the most innovative in the guard in terms of resources, Barker said, calling Houston “the most diverse city in the world.” The resources at the base provide a powerful response option for natural disasters, as well as allowing for local training missions, Barker said.
When the Texas Air National Guard assists local police departments with responses, they prefer to offer their resources and technology for assistance as opposed to taking over, he added. This includes the bomb squad support the guard gives municipalities for necessary operations.
Barker encouraged any local academics or researchers to share their work with the guard if it could benefit from involvement with the workers at Ellington, noting the guard aims to increase its public and private partnerships. The U.S. National Guard motto of “always ready, always there” resonates strongly with the people Barker works with, he said.
“Your Lone Star wing is ready to respond to any threat and any circumstances,” he said. “If the aliens attack tonight, it’s not about the equipment; it’s about the people ... and we will come through for our community.”