[U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker starts with thoughts about the Mississippi GOP split after the recent U.S. Senate primary election, discusses at 2:00 efforts to keep the National Guard's 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team and at 4:20 explains his position on an on-going U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.]
By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker delivered a strong dose of skepticism and opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies during a visit Thursday to the Tupelo Luncheon Civitan Club.
In an interview with the Daily Journal afterward, he shared his most immediate concern – fighting the administration’s recommendation to eliminate the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Tupelo.
The Department of Defense’s proposal to dissolve the National Guard unit also would remove Apache attack helicopters from the combat team’s aviation facility in Tupelo.
“It’s my number one priority in September,” Wicker said during an interview with the Daily Journal. “We need to get it done before the end of the fiscal year.”
The federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Wicker supports passage of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes funding for an independent national commission to analyze Obama’s budget recommendations to restructure the Army’s active-duty and reserve facilities.
Both Wicker and Sen. Thad Cochran have sponsored federal legislation to protect the National Guard unit with strong ties to Tupelo. The Obama Administration has recommended transferring all Army Guard AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to other facilities.
“We’re very much all about protecting the 155th and our National Guard units,” Wicker said.
Beyond protecting the state’s military facilities, Wicker also disagreed with Obama’s plans to withdraw all military support from Afghanistan in 2017. Wicker said the nation should have learned lessons from Korean and Iraqi conflicts about the importance of keeping a significant military presence for support duties.
“One thing I would ask the president to do is listen to the generals and not let the same debacle that happened in Iraq happen again in Afghanistan,” the Tupelo Republican said.
As for state Republican Party politics, Wicker acknowledged healing needed within the state GOP after the emotional and bitter U.S. Senate primary election between Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is contesting the results.
“I think there’s some healing to do,” he said.