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FIGHTING CHANCE: Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is battling efforts to shut down the 132nd fighter wing in Des Moines.

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Iowa Senator Charles Grassley says he's starting to question the reasons behind the recommendations that would retire the 21 F-16 fighter aircraft assigned to the Air Guard in Des Moines.

"We were told their judgments were all based upon data," said Senator Grassley, "The more you look into it the more you think its judgment. Somebody tells you well a few years ago the full time Air Force took a certain amount cuts so now it's quote unquote the Air Guards turn."

Grassley says to retire the 21 F-16 fighter aircraft for that reason wouldn't be fair to the missions or to everybody involved.

If the 21 fighter jets are cut, Grassley says many people will be affected. And not all of groups are obvious. An aviation and technology program through Des Moines Public Schools works directly with the 132nd Wing. Instructors say if the jets disappear, so does a very significant portion of these high schoolers` education.

Instructors say the program just can't be replicated. The students get hands on experience. They get to go inside the air craft, and not only learn about the mechanics behind everything, they also get to work on the aircrafts. A big part of the program is working directly with the 132nd Fighter Wing.

Ryan Chandler graduated from the program last year, and interned with the Fighter Wing. It leads him to his dream job of becoming a fighter pilot. Chandler says working up close with the F-16's and their pilots put him a step above others his age with the same career aspirations. Chandler's teacher said to the program and experience on an application or resume is irreplaceable.

"Ask you're self when you leave high school what are you qualified to do?" said Chandler's teacher Jerry Bradley, "They can actually leave high school and go get a job that pays between 18 and 35 dollars an hour."

Without the jets, Bradley says all that could be in jeopardy.

"When you ask how important it is, how important is the future of our young people? How important is that," said Bradley.

The program is through the Des Moines Public School District, but students from more than 25 other Iowa districts also participate.

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