By Mannix Porterfield
You might confuse the Raleigh County Memorial Airport with one of the larger facilities during a 10-day marathon known as the Boy Scouts National Jamboree.
As thousands of Scouts and their families pour into the region for the event at the Summit Bechtel Family Scout Reserve in Fayette County, the airport is gearing up for an onslaught of visitors and heavy air traffic.
“Certainly, we hope we will be the important link,” Manager Tom Cochran said Wednesday.
“We’re already seeing some of the Scouts are coming in commercially with the provided air service we have in place.”
Cochran said the Beckley airport will accommodate the Scout visitors on the ground, as well, by allowing buses to be parked in some of the available areas.
“We’re just here as a supporting part,” he said.
Other than being set up on a military base, Cochran said the Scouts have never been able to conduct a camp this close to an airport.
“This is one of the first jamborees that they’ve had on their own property, so to speak,” he said.
“It’s kind of a trial-and-error type situation. Right now, we don’t know what to expect.”
Besides assisting visitors with flights and giving buses space, Cochran said the airport has expanded the hours at the restaurant to feed National Guard troops who have been in the vicinity for some time, conducting various maneuvers.
“The restaurant is an important element of support to them as well as to be able to have food provided for them,” Cochran said.
Already, the airport has been contacted by the corporate aviation side seeking reserve parking for larger aircraft planning to fly in, the firms that have supported the Scouts from day one, the manager said.
As for the troops, Cochran said about 100 of the National Guard, based in Parkersburg, have maintained a presence at the airport in recent weeks, evidenced by five Black Hawk helicopters out of Parkersburg, with more to be flown in.
“They’re going to be here for the duration of the Jamboree,” he said.
“They are doing maneuvers in support of the Scouts. There will be some C-130s here starting Saturday.”
Come Monday, the troops will be engaged in a simulated medical evacuation with the large military craft, along with daily activities associated with the scouting event in Glen Jean and various other points.
Cochran is planning a special “salute to the troops” on the evening of July 19, featuring some karaoke led by G.W. Whittaker, a Transportation Security Administration official at the airport. Food and drink will be available.
“We’ve got different troops from different places all across the state,” the manager said.
“We’re just having a little appreciation for the troops, showing our support for them.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org