Fightertown: Rebuilding for the future

14 Dec 2006 | Lance Cpl. Monique Smith

Lance Cpl. Monique Smith

Jet Stream Staff

Have you heard rumors about a new chow hall? Have you heard the MAG-31 Headquarters staff may be moving? Has anybody else been wondering what building is under construction on the flightline?

These projects and more than 10 others on the Air Station and Laurel Bay are currently in the construction phase or waiting final approval.

Some of the construction falls under the Military Construction program, which covers the major construction of facilities as authorized by Congress. The MILCON projects require years of detailed planning and coordination with higher headquarters, as it takes on average 7 years to complete a project from start to finish. Others are funded by Headquarters Marine Corps.

“The staff here at the Air Station is skilled at planning far into the future and making sure we stay ahead of the game when it comes to renovating our facilities, building new ones and demolishing those facilities that have outlived their usefulness,” said Col. Robert Lanham, the Air Station commanding officer.

“All of the projects are mission essential,” said William Snead, the S-4 officer. “Whether it be to fix a problem within a facility or renovate an entire facility, each project is essential.”

The following is a description of some of the major projects that will affect Air Station personnel this year and in the years ahead.

MAG-31 Headquarters Building

One of the most significant projects will be the renovation of the Marine Aircraft Group 31 Headquarters Building, which is expected to begin in February. MAG-31 Headquarters personnel will move to the former building of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 when construction begins and remain there throughout the roughly 400 days the renovation is expected to take.

"The new layout of the MAG-31 Building will be more efficient for those Marines," said Jim Roberts, a mechanical engineer with Public Works.

According to Roberts, part of the need for the construction is simply the building’s old age and out-of-date facilities such as bathrooms, electrical wiring and overall office space layout. The center building for the headquarters was constructed in 1957 and the east and west portions date back to the 1980s.

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Building

Another project underway is the construction of the new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Building on the flightline, near its present location, but even closer to those they protect and serve daily.

The current building dates back to 1959 and parts of the building are beyond repair, according to Gunnery Sgt. Greg Harlan, the material chief for ARFF. Once it is completed, the new $4.5 million building will immediately enhance the ARFF Marines’ ability to get the job done, as it boasts drive-through bays and enhanced living quarters so that the Marines are only sleeping two-to-a room instead of the current squad-bay style accommodations – creature comforts that are a valuable feature because ARFF Marines are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The new rooms afford everyone a better quality of life," Harlan said. "When the Marines are given recreation time now, they will be able to close their door, do MCI's or study without 13 other Marines in the room."

“We’re very enthusiastic about the new ARFF building,” said Cpl. Alfonso Procopio, a crew chief with ARFF. “It’s neat to see the future of operations being constructed.”

Runway Repair and Re-paving

Without properly maintained runways, the F/A-18 Hornets and other aircraft that land here daily would not be able to complete their missions. For this reason, plans are constantly being made to ensure that both runways are in proper working condition, while attempt to limit the impact to the squadrons. Part of one runway is already under repair for rubber removal right now.

"When the jets touch down during landings the tires leave a rubber residue on the ground," said David Moore, the airfield manager. "We clean them off every year and it closes part of the runway for 30 days."

In addition to the yearly rubber-removal process, this year beginning sometime in May or April 2007, each runway will be under construction for re-pavement. The re-pavement process will take approximately one year to finish.

Both runways will be shut down at some point repairs to the intersection, according to Moore; however, all attempts will be made to reduce the amount of time needed for intersection repairs to get the jets back up in the air.

Hush House

The Hush House is a $14 million acoustical barrier that will give MAG-31 and Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86 the ability to test engines in jets at full strength, without having to remove the engines from the plane. Having a facility large enough to fit an entire aircraft will speed maintenance procedures and reduce noise from testing.

“The Hush House will allow for testing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including during inclement weather,” Roberts said. “It makes testing easier just being indoors.”

The projected completion date for the Hush House is December 2007.

Enlisted Dining Facility

Another project planned for Fightertown’s future is the construction of a brand-new enlisted dining facility, which is planned to be located behind the Child Development Center aboard the Air Station.

“The biggest feature will be the cafeteria-type feeding format,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eric Joseph, the mess hall manager at the Air Station. “It will be more of a collegiate type atmosphere appealing to the younger generation.”

While the completion of the new mess hall is scheduled for 2009, design plans for the enlisted dining facility are well underway.

“The design will be similar to the New River mess hall,” Joseph said. We want it to accommodate all of the squadrons being here at the same time.”

Two other projects that are in their final stages of renovation are upgrades to a Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 maintenance building – which cost approximately $750,000 - and a $1.2 million overhaul of the Combat Logistics Company 23 Headquarters Building.

Work was completed this week on the MWSS-273 facility and the Sweat Hogs are now moving back into the building, while CLC-23’s building is expected to be complete in February. Both projects included seismic upgrades, added classroom space, and new female bathroom facilities among others.

“Both buildings will give those Marines and sailors adequate space to perform their current duties,” said Jack Galloway, a public works engineering consultant.

While the construction on base is evident, Air Station personnel will not see the end results of all of these quite some time. However, the changes made now and in the future will continue to make the Air Station a high-quality installation for the Marines and sailors who call Fightertown home, according to Lanham.

“Anyone who comes onto MCAS Beaufort from other installations can see that we are keeping this installation modernized and ready to support our combat missions and quality of life requirements even amidst the current budget environment,” Lanham said.