Adapting and overcoming, construction projects continue at Grissom

  • Published
  • By Maj. Neil Samson
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

 Keeping the base in top shape for over three quarters of a century is challenging during normal times, but when you throw in a global pandemic, that ups the ante. Luckily Grissom’s base civil engineers are up to the challenge.

During the onset of Coronavirus, Grissom civil engineers faced the possibility of base construction projects being completely halted. 

Shortages of lumber and metal products mixed with unemployment and physical distancing guidelines threatened to force contractors to set down their tools.

“Having the facilities we need to support our mission is critical,” said Col. Gretchen Wiltse, 434th Mission Support Group commander.

Base civil engineers currently head seven construction projects and plan to undertake three more projects in future.  Some of these projects involve upgrades, while others involve completely replacing buildings that have been here since 1942.

“The Grissom CE team has done an exceptional job keeping the base facilities in great condition through the years,” Wiltse said. “That takes planning and advocating across a 10 or 20 year plan.”

Four of the seven current projects are either located on or near the flight line, while the remaining three developments are spread across base. 

Flight line projects consist of a hydrant fuel system upgrade, a series of hangar upgrades, flight line parking pavement replacements, and a new 49th Aerial Port Squadron building.

“The hydrant fuel system, at an approximate cost of $36 million, is a total replacement project, has an expected completion of November 2020, but most likely December,” said Mark Waite, 434th CES base civil engineer. “The hydrant fuel system is a total upgrade so it takes the system to new standards from when it was originally built.” 

While the fuel system is under a total upgrade process, decades-old roofs are being replaced on several nose docks. 

Dock 1 and Dock 3 are getting complete new roofing, and funding was just awarded for re-roofing Docks 2 and 4.

“We did enough patching over time and these roofs haven’t been replaced for many years, so we are replacing them,” Waite said. 

“With new roofs on our docks, and a recently funded exterior extension and overhaul of Dock 5, our maintenance capacity remains high,” Wiltse added.

Outside, pavement areas on the mass parking apron are being repaired to give KC-135R Stratotankers a safe place to park.

Echo and Foxtrot rows on the MPA are having the cracking 1959 concrete excavated and replaced with up to 24 inches of new parking surface.

“This project will eliminate the deteriorated concrete that was a major source of foreign object debris on the airfield,” Waite said.

He added that the benefits to revamping these MPAs also include increased durability, and less maintenance and associated downtime. 

The project will also mitigate water and frost issues.

The only current flight line project that is a new construction is the aerial port facility.

The project is a MILCON – or military construction project worth over $7 million and it was funded during the fiscal year 2019 budget.

The building will house a growing aerial port mission that saw the unit go from a flight to a squadron status, nearly doubling its manning.

“Having a dedicated aerial port facility will allow us to continue working with sister services, allies, and partners to move critical cargo like COVID or disaster response supplies,” Wiltse said.

Outside of the flight line area, renovations on various structures around base are also underway.

“Buildings 667 and Building 668 are under complete renovation,” said Waite. “When we talk about renovations we mean completely stripped it down to the studs and concrete, and built up from there.”

Both buildings belong to the 434th Operations Group.

“Refurbishing our operations facilities with upgraded classified handling areas will also allow our 434th Communications Squadron to continue its ongoing transformation to a cyber operations squadron,” Wiltse added.

Finally, the Defense Logistics Agency is renovating the three large fuel storage tanks at the fuel farm, a location used to store aviation fuel. 

“Those large fuel tanks will be emptied, picked up and moved, then reset on upgraded, leak protected foundations during the renovation process.” Waite explained.

In all Grissom was awarded $28 million for projects in FY19 and Waite expects other projects to be awarded in the near future.

Waite said the progress on construction projects has slowed down and with the possibility of a reduced budget in the future, his team continues to move forward in Grissom’s care and upkeep.

“We have to keep the projects and the contracts for the construction of the projects moving forward,” said Waite. “Because of the pandemic, we had problems getting materials in, whether it was dry wall or steel; that affected the contractors’ schedule, so we dealt with it on a case-by-case basis.”

Contractor companies responsible for these building projects also play a large role in creating jobs through sub-contractors, which ultimately support the local economy in times where jobs are hard to find.

Those factors go into an overall economic impact of $124 million Grissom has on the local area.

 “We have a great looking, highly functioning installation that continues to get better, and an amazing military family here,” Wiltse said.

434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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