Things are looking up at Dover Air Force Base as a number of major projects near completion.
For example, spacious new digs will soon provide airmen with a more gracious sense of home.
“The goal of the Air Force is quality,” says DAFB spokesman John Sclesky. “And if we expect a quality workforce, we have to start by providing the kind of accommodations that will achieve the highest level of quality possible.”
That means a whole new concept in on-base residential living that encompasses more of the comfort and privacy of mainstream apartment living.
“The housing project is formally named Dorm for Airmen Standard Apartment and is set up on a quad-living arrangement,” Sclesky explains.
That translates into civilian parlance as a four-bedroom apartment, each bedroom containing a private bath. The four individual bedrooms then open to a common kitchen and living room area, where a washer-dryer combination is also located.
It’s a big improvement over the current dorm configuration, where two bedrooms share a bath and the common areas must accommodate up to 150 residents.
“The initial 148-room complex is scheduled to be ready in March 2010,” Sclesky says. “And renovations on the remaining dorms to reflect the new residential standard will continue over the next five years, eventually accommodating all of the 500 to 600 on-base airmen.”
Situated on approximately 3,900 acres, DAFB represents some $5.7 billion in military resources. It is estimated the base’s economic impact exceeds $450 million covering a 50-mile radius, with about 2,300 outside jobs being maintained by the base’s operations.
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And the base’s value is sure to grow as it continues to renovate and modernize.
“We’ll have a new, state-of-the-art control tower operational in July of this year,” Sclesky says. “It’s replacing the current one that dates back to the 1950s.”
Sclesky believes the tower may have been the oldest Air Force operating tower in the United States. The new tower is significantly larger and will include radar approach, which, because of space limitations, was previously housed in a separate structure.
“Combining radar approach with tower functions provides what we call a force multiplier, increasing and expanding the opportunities for tower personnel to multitask a variety of functions among themselves,” Sclesky says.
This means additional activities can be managed with the same number of personnel. The new control tower will be operating in time for the new C-17 transports that will replace the current squadron of C-5s.
The C-17 beddown project includes alterations of C-5 hangars and other maintenance and storage facilities because the new transport is smaller than its older cousin. The C-17 is designed for more flexible missions because it can take off and land on shorter runways. The 13-plane squadron will be bedded down by November.
On the somber side, but crucial to one of the base’s most critical missions, a new mortuary complex will be reconstructed into a campus that will house the current mortuary function and the Joint Personal Effects Depot.
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Currently, the personal possessions of fallen soldiers arrive at the base, then are transported to a facility in Aberdeen, Maryland, Sclesky says. “The new campus will provide for a more secure handling of our heroes’ personal effects.”
The campus, scheduled to open in September 2010, will include a new Medical Examiner’s building that will house a DNA lab, toxicology department and forensic staff currently located in Rockville, Maryland.
The creation of the new campus requires tearing down the current recreational building, but the base plans to construct a new recreation center that will also offer fishing and camping, among other activities.
In keeping with the Air Force commitment to quality, new base construction will also feature a modern, energy-efficient fitness center. The center, expected to open in May 2010, will include a gym, aerobics rooms, a health and wellness facility, cardio fitness training, a nutritionist and racquetball courts.
“The center is a critical component to the base and the service academy’s commitment to support Air Force physical fitness,” Sclesky says.
Promoting a sound mind with that sound body, the base’s Force Development Center is undergoing a renovation from its 1970 vintage. The facility, expected to be finished by September 2010, will house a Leadership School and classrooms for airmen to continue their college educations.
A new aeroclub center that opened in January allows base personnel—civilian and military—the opportunity to learn how to fly planes.
And what was once a gas station will open this summer as a convenience store complex that will provide gas, food vendors and a car wash.
A new $53 million runway will soon replace an aging and failing surface. “This project, which began in October 2007, involved closing one of the base’s two runways,” Sclesky says. “Yet during the entire reconstruction time frame, we were able to maintain all normal mission operations regarding takeoffs and landings at the base.”