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Sen Doug Jones talks with Major Roseman L. Deas II inside a KC-135R aircraft during Jones’ visit Birmingham Air National Guard 117th Air Refueling Wing.
Photo by Bella Tylicki/Metro Editor

Bella Tylicki
Metro Editor
btylicki@uab.edu

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) visited the Birmingham Air National Guard 117th Air Refueling Wing Wednesday, Feb. 21, to demonstrate his dedication to supporting the servicepersons of the National Guard and address hot topics such as gun control and the upcoming Alabama gubernatorial race. The event was one stop on his Alabama state tour.  

“It’s been a privilege to represent Alabama in Washington, but there’s nothing like getting home and hearing from folks firsthand,” Jones said.  

After touring the National Guard facility, Jones climbed aboard the KC-135R aircraft to meet with a conglomeration of the base’s officers, the plane’s crew and press. 

“This is probably one of the most important units for both Air Guard and Army anywhere in the world,” Jones said. “I’m so appreciative and so impressed.”  

Captain Jonathan Russell, a public affairs officer for the base, explained the broader mission of the facility.  

“Our main mission is air refueling, [but] we also do medical evac[uations],” Russell said. “We do some cargo missions. Every once in a while, if there’s a tornado or hurricane, we’ll actually go outside the gate and help citizens around here.”  

Jones pledged to be a partner of the unit and expressed a desire to upgrade facilities, such as the one in Birmingham. He specifically endorsed getting a flight simulator to the base for pilots to keep updated on the latest certifications and training.  

“I’m really looking forward to working with you guys as much as possible,” Jones said. “One of the joys of being in the U.S. Senate is to be able to come and visit and see firsthand the incredible work that our military…does for this country and for this state. I can’t emphasize enough the economic impact that this unit has on the state of Alabama and on this area.  In light of the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, Jones answered inquiries about the latest wave of the gun control debate.  

“I don’t think guns should be placed in teachers’ hands,” Jones said. “That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.”  

He gave President Donald J. Trump credit for taking steps toward tightening background checks and banning bump stocks, attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire faster. 

“We’ve got some pretty strong laws on the books,” Jones said. “What we really need to do is make sure that they can be enforced.”  

Jones advocates for an increase in funding for conducting background checks and updating the associated technology and incentivizing municipalities, counties and military to properly and thoroughly input data to the system.  

“That system is only as good as the data that goes into it,” Jones said. “The second step is obviously school security. We’re going to have to fortify schools a little bit more than we’ve done now, and people are just going to have to get used to that. Protecting our children has to be the No. 1 priority.”  

He also commented on the nearing race for governor calling it “exciting” and “competitive.”  

“I want to make sure that the people in Alabama have good choices, and that they make good choices,” Jones said.

Jones believes that the December special election in which he was elected was “a step forward” in proving that Alabama wants to “get things done in a bipartisan era.”  

Avoiding expressing whether he will be endorsing any candidate, Jones voiced a hope for respectful civil discourse and an issue-based race. Like in his campaign for Senate, he hopes that the goal for each candidate is unity.  

“I think there are good candidates on both sides of the aisle,” Jones said.  

According to the release from his team, during his State Work Period, Jones visited seven Alabama cities to “highlight key priorities for the different communities, including rural health care, defense, infrastructure, workforce development and education.”  

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