Building a better base

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Cranes tower above buildings in the Spangdahlem skyline with loads of stone, lumber and other materials swaying from its limbs, a scene that is becoming more commonplace as construction continues in preparation for the closing of Bitburg Air Base.

With a seemingly stable sense of vision for the future of Spangdahlem's transformation into a self-supporting base, a new plan for construction projects yet to come are outlined in "Spangdahlem 2015." Spangdahlem 2015 involves multi-million dollar projects to provide Sabers and their families with the best services possible, as well as an overall view of returning Bitburg to the German government

The closing of Bitburg brings many challenges for Sabers and their families, many of which involve the need for facilities that won't be available if Bitburg were to close now.

One of the projects from Spangdahlem 2015 to accomodate those currently residing at Bitburg AB is the completion of housing construction on Spangdahlem for Sabers and their families.

In 2006, Phase One in Military Family Housing began and was completed in December 2008. This phase, which cost more than $42 million, provided an additional 79 housing units for Sabers new to the installation or moving from the Bitburg Annex. In 2007, Phase Two of the project began for construction of 60 additional housing units, costing more than $37 million. This phase is estimated to be complete in 2010, though more than half of Phase Two is scheduled to be complete by the end of summer 2009.

"Most people enjoy the change in housing because it makes a big difference," said Udo Stuermer, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Programs Flight chief. "Some come from living under the same roof with 18 families to living in more of a single house with attached garages or an attached garage and room above."

Many of the old housing complexes replaced at Spangdahlem was more than 50 years old, but "it was a small miracle to receive support to take down the old and build the new since, in Germany, you find buildings are around for much longer - from the 1700s and 1800s," he said.

The process may take longer than one might expect, however, because it's not just a demolishing process. Mr. Stuermer noted it's more of a "deconstructing and recycling" so no materials are wasted.

Also in the works is a new medical facility. When the clinic at Bitburg closes, those missions will not just evaporate. The need for those missions will continue, and they must have a home for their operations. In 2008, Spangdahlem broke ground for the new medical clinic across from the shopette.

"There will be a lot of new construction in the northern part of the base. Right now, it's the medical clinic, which was funded in 2008. About $30 million will go on into the project that has an estimated completion date in February 2011," Mr. Stuermer said.

Projects already completed because of ever-changing requirements include repair to a taxiway, the education center, a ramp and the explosive ordinance disposal building. Base-wide there were pavement repairs and better storm drains were built, as well as a myriad of other projects to support new missions or accommodate old ones.

"In 2008 alone, there were 124 projects totaling $157 million. There are few not complete like the clinic, housing and ramp four, but everything else is done," Mr. Stuermer said. "The entire amount of money invested since 1994 reaches $694 million, of which about half is from the U.S., 40 percent from Germany and 10 percent from NATO."

Along with the addition of new facilities only found at Bitburg such as the high school, Red Cross, and Armed Forces Network, there will also be upgrades to current Spangdahlem buildings such as the child development centers, fitness center, base exchange and elementary and middle schools.

While it is uncertain of exact groundbreaking and completion dates, one thing is for certain - change is happening and there is more change to come.

Editor's Note: This article is the second of a three-part series on the past, present and future of Spangdahlem AB's major construction programs.