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Col. Ethan Griffin loves to hear the C-5s in the air at Dover Air Force Base, especially since the roar of the military’s largest airplane was noticeably absent for eight months in 2016. The entire fleet of C-5M Super Galaxies was moved to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey while one of the main runways at Dover was renovated. 

Griffin, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, was happy to reopen the runway and get the C-5s and C-17 Globemaster IIIs, back home and ready to go. Keeping everything running is all part of the air base’s mission of “rapid global mobility” for national security. The runway is just one of several upgrades the base has planned. 

By the end of the two-year, $112 million runway project contractors had poured more than 220,000 cubic yards of concrete, installed 1,040 lighting fixtures with 209 miles of cable, moved 51 acres of dirt, installed 5,000 linear feet of box culvert and placed 123,000 square yards of asphalt. 

The runway project and subsequent work—building a new elementary and middle school, constructing a new hangar and upgrading various areas—are all “investments in Delaware,” Griffin says.

To show off the renovations and additions, the base is planning an air show and open house Aug. 26-27. The Thunderbirds, the precision air team of the U.S. Air Force, are scheduled to appear. For those who can’t wait, the Air Mobility Command Museum, on the base, explains the mission of the Air Force and its work in Dover. The museum’s interactive displays include a flight simulator, a jet engine people can stand in, and several decommissioned planes and helicopters, including a former Air Force One.  

“It’s pretty fascinating,” says Cindy Small, a former tourism director in Kent County.

The DAFB mission is global, but its local ties and impacts are significant. The overall economic impact of the base on the Kent County area is estimated at $564 million a year. More directly, the base’s influence was felt in more than $20 million in contracts with local small businesses last year for everything from snow removal to construction.

The relationship goes both ways. Airmen and their families volunteer throughout the year to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity, conduct food and clothing drives for local shelters, serve as advocates for troubled children and help with Special Olympics, to name a few efforts.

“This is such a great area to live and work,” says Griffin. “Dover is really a jewel to our national defense mission.”

Over the past year, personnel from the base also partnered with local law enforcement for training purposes and helped with community gardens, where they grew more than $4,200 worth of produce. 

“We’re always looking for ways to get airmen out in the community,” Griffin says. “The future is bright for Dover.”

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