Spangdahlem's past a series of changes

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Editor's Note: This article is the first of a three-part series on the past, present and future of Spangdahlem Air Base's major construction programs.

An air base is like a strip mall - it must constantly change to fit the needs of its customers. In the case of the U.S. Air Force, its customers are the American people, NATO, our allies and it's marketing air power instead of pizza and manicures.

Since the base opened in the 1950s, a slew of units have taken up real estate here. The 52nd Fighter Wing has seen a number of name changes and multiple units activated, inactivated and reactivated under its leadership.

"Since 1994 when Bitburg partially closed, we've been trying to prepare Spangdahlem to be the main hub with all the facilities to maintain the mission," said Udo Stuermer, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron programs flight chief.

When the fighter wing left Bitburg, a portion of the base was returned to the German government. The remaining land and buildings, to include housing and the French Casern, became an annex to Spangdahlem. Handing over the remaining pieces of Bitburg will continue until Spangdahlem becomes the sole air base in the area, estimated to happen by 2015.

As the mission continued to grow and the number of Sabers working and living on Spangdahlem AB increased, the need for more Airmen became an issue. More housing, more room for patients in a bigger clinic, more access to base-exchange and commissary services, more space for children in child development centers, more land, more of everything.

"Military construction takes a long time. Some things take longer than others while certain things take precedence, but it all requires MILCON support to build facilities," Mr. Stuermer said.

In 1997, a team of Sabers created "Eifel 2010," an upgrading, expanding improvement plan for the base. First, 121 acres of land were purchased for expansion projects, and an additional 123 acres were later added when Spangdahlem took on part of operations previously supported by Rhein Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany, as it closed.

"We had established the plan for 'Eifel 2010,' but then there was Rhein Main transferring heavies during the Rhein Main Transition Program. The main portion of that mission was sent to Ramstein, (AB) but Spangdahlem received some of the mission, too," Mr. Steurmer said.

Because of the immediate need of a larger ramp for the cargo aircraft from Rhein Main, the details prescribed by the "Eifel 2010" layout no longer suited the future of Spangdahlem AB. Sabers went to work again on a new plan, "Eifel Evolution," in 2000. But that plan was nixed, as well, because of unforeseen events.

"Things change. After Sept. 11, there were new (anti-terrorism and force-protection) requirements. This required more land again. The base had 1,613 acres total versus having 1,200 in 1995," Mr. Steurmer said. But some of the land previously needed for the Eifel Evolution project was needed for safety and security projects instead.

With that, Sabers once again began the process of anticipating what future customers of Spangdahlem AB would need while shaping it into an independent, sufficient base.