Sabers await IEA decision

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Weeks from now, the winner for the Installation Excellence and Special Recognition Awards will be announced naming either Spangdahlem Air Base or Travis Air Force Base, Calif., the victor. No matter the outcome, according to Installation Excellence Award Selection Board team lead Maj. Gen. Anita Gallentine and 52nd Fighter Wing Commander Col. Christopher Weggeman, we're "already winners."

For two days, the five-person selection board toured the base visiting everyone from wing staff agencies to the Child Development Centers.

"We showed (the IEA Selection Board) the Saber standard. We showed them our Sabers and the whole crosscut of the Saber family. We showed them our children in the roles of students in our schools. We showed them our spouses. We showed them our civilians, both GS civilians and host-nation civilians. We showed them the full spectrum of the active-duty membership," said Colonel Weggeman.

One key feature that makes Spangdahlem unique from any other Air Force installation is its location. Being overseas presents a number of hurdles to include having geographically-separated units spread over Western Europe and working with the host nations to ensure the base and its GSUs complement the communities in which they reside.

The local community, in fact, played a great role in the success of the IEA Selection Board visit, according to Colonel Weggeman.

"Certainly, I think the icebreaker dinner that was hosted by our host-nation representatives ... was a wonderful indoctrination for the team ... I think they saw the connection was more than just a business relationship; it's a German-American friendship, as (Spangdahlem Mayor) Herr Klaus Rodens says all the time," said the commander. "I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our GSUs. We have five major GSUs in four different countries ... and they are direct extensions of our base and that makes us very unique.

"I think they understood that this is a challenging mission and a challenging environment," he said. "In terms of a fighter wing, we're probably the most multi-faceted fighter wing in the Air Force given the mission set we have."

The commander also credited the immense enthusiasm and support showcased at the IEA in-brief Jan. 25 for making the selection board's visit a successful one.

"The kickoff brief in the morning when we had (so many) Sabers to include the third-grade class and the seventh-grade class in the Club Eifel ballroom -- that was a phenomenal event. The energy in there was palpable," Colonel Weggeman said. "It was great to show the team the whole Saber family and how excited we are for us to be able to show them the Saber standard.

As one of two finalists for the IEA Spangdahlem AB is, in fact, already a winner as second place receives $500,000 for quality of life improvements to the base. The first-place winner will receive $1 million.

"We solicited ideas from the entire Saber family on what to do with the money, and I got outstanding ideas from all walks of life from the Saber family," said the wing commander.

Some of the ideas accepted for consideration include improving running locations, refurbishing the softball field, contributing to scholarship funds, renovating the base movie theater, building an indoor kids' zone, or purchasing a climbing wall.

The IEA winner will be announced in March, at which time it will be decided what to do with either the $500,000 or $1 million.

"We're winners already; and, regardless of the outcome, I'm very proud of the Saber team," said Colonel Weggeman.

"We're not acting. We didn't just put on a play. We showcased the reality of what it is to be a Saber in the 52nd Fighter Wing," he said. "We showed them what winning looks like."