If you're a veteran in the Pittsburgh area, you're in good company. The region boasts the fourth-highest veteran population in the United States, with the Center for New American Security (CNAS) estimating that 235,000 current and former service members currently call the area home. Even though there are a whopping seven military bases in Western Pennsylvania, none of them are active duty, which means they receive less attention and financial support from the government than their active duty counterparts.
Since 1995, however, the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania (MACWPA) has been working tirelessly to give our military bases the funding and support they need. Serving as a voice for the military community in the Pittsburgh area, the Council -- headed by chairman Marcel Minutolo and supported by dozens of local business and community leaders -- works to spread awareness about the local military's impact on the community and to provide a megaphone for the needs of the Pittsburgh-area bases and veterans.
Minutolo, who served as a military intelligence company commander for ten years in the Army National Guard, now spends his time with the MACWPA searching for grants and coordinating with executive staff and local base commanders to learn about the bases' needs. He says that much of the Council's work involves public education, which is crucial to develop support and funding for the Western PA military.
"For example, the 911th Airlift Wing has been at risk for closure [in the past]," Minutolo says. "We've tried to communicate the impact that the base has had on the region, and vice versa. We've used promotional material, videos, anything we can to reach the public."
Part of the MACWPA's challenges come from the fact that many Western PA residents aren't aware of the extent of the military's local involvement. The Pittsburgh-area bases don't just take part in international operations -- they also play a large role in local and national snowstorm and flood relief, and they even help with public safety on local waterways.
Communicating the military's needs to the public carries the ultimate goal of getting people to actively participate in the MACWPA's efforts. Minutolo explains that there are plenty of ways to help the local military, from writing letters to local representatives outlining funding needs to taking a more hands-on approach to helping veterans.
"If you work on an active duty base, you get help preparing your tax returns. There's no office to do that on our area's bases, so we rely on volunteers to help military personnel file their tax returns," he says. "Or be a good employer. Hire folks transitioning out of the military or staying in the military and coming back from deployment."
The MACWPA is currently working on a variety of projects, from developing studies to quantify the impact of the military on the Pittsburgh region to acquiring eight C17s (large military transport aircraft) at the 911th. In fact, the success of the latter project (for which the MACWPA helped secure $80 million from Congress) is also enabling the 911th to develop a state-of-the-art C17 flight simulator that will also be used to train military personnel from outside the region.
Whether they're saving the 911th from the brink of closure and turning it into a home for some of the largest aircraft in the world or helping local veterans build their careers, the MACWPA is a crucial asset to the Western PA region. If you want to learn more about how you can help the Council support the local military, use the contact form on their website.
Dugan & Associates is proud to support our region's military. With your support, we can help the strong military presence in Pittsburgh become even stronger.
Visit militaryaffairscouncilwesternpa.org to learn more.