MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Hundreds of officers lined the tarmac at Memphis International Airport Saturday for Gov. Phil Bredesen's official dedication of the new Tennessee Air National Guard Base.
"What an honor it is for me and the men and women of the 164th," said Lt. Col. Mark Devine.
The facility is the new home of the 164th Airlift Wing and the largest Air National Guard project in history.
It took two years to build the high-tech, $245 million dollar base on 118 acres of land at Swinnea Road and Shelby Drive.
Three super-size hangars will house the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the U.S. Air Force fleet. The massive plane's wingspan is three quarters the size of a football field.
The Air National Guard's mission is to ensure public safety by deploying staff in times of emergency, like the recent hurricanes that swept the Gulf Coast.
Tennessee Air National Guard soldiers are currently providing additional security for Gulf Coast communities and helping to enforce curfews. And they recently returned from patrolling the streets in Iraq.
Bredesen says the grand opening of the Memphis base is a massive move forward in ensuring the safety of American lives.
"It really underlines the important role our Air National Guard is playing in these times with the threat of terrorist attacks," said Bredesen.
And the new military base gave Memphis-based FedEx a lift.
"We occupied land that FedEx really needed to expand their business. They're such an economic driver here," said Bredesen. "We needed a much larger facility here if we were going to continue our mission. So, basically it worked out. A land swap."