Transforming to meet 21st century challenges

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- A new base housing and shopping center are part of the construction taking place on Spangdahlem Air Base under the renovation plan known as Spangdahlem 2015. The project calls for about $230 million of consolidation projects here due to the consolidation of Spangdahlem AB and Bitburg Annex including new schools, a new clinic, a new fitness center, a new Base Exchange and commissary and a new housing area. (US Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Allen Pollard)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- A new base housing and shopping center are part of the construction taking place on Spangdahlem Air Base under the renovation plan known as Spangdahlem 2015. The project calls for about $230 million of consolidation projects here due to the consolidation of Spangdahlem AB and Bitburg Annex including new schools, a new clinic, a new fitness center, a new Base Exchange and commissary and a new housing area. (US Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Allen Pollard)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Construction has started at Spangdahlem Air Base on many projects as part of the renovation plan known as Spangdahlem 2015.The project calls for about $230 million of consolidation projects here due to the consolidation of Spangdahlem AB and Bitburg Annex including new schools, a new clinic, a new fitness center, a new Base Exchange and commissary and a new housing area. (US Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Allen Pollard)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Construction has started at Spangdahlem Air Base on many projects as part of the renovation plan known as Spangdahlem 2015.The project calls for about $230 million of consolidation projects here due to the consolidation of Spangdahlem AB and Bitburg Annex including new schools, a new clinic, a new fitness center, a new Base Exchange and commissary and a new housing area. (US Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Allen Pollard)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Although no one knew it at the time, the 1999 decision to close the U.S. Air Force's historic Rhein-Main Air Base in 2005 led to a new way of thinking for the engineers and planners at Spangdahlem Air Base. Today, that thought process is the installation's manifest destiny.

In December 2005, the U.S. Air Force handed over Rhein-Main Air Base to the Frankfurt airport as an effort to both "draw down" and "centralize" their European operations. 

The closure of the principal aerial port for all U.S. forces in Europe led to a transfer of the existent cargo and passenger service missions to both Ramstein Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base. 

The change was big for Ramstein, but it was huge for Spangdahlem, necessitating the purchase of an extra 125 acres called the "Northwest Expansion," the approval of about $175 million in construction projects, and the significant overhaul of the runways and taxiways, which meant the relatively [small] A-10 Warthogs and F-16 Vipers would have to make room for the "heavies," - - the C-5 Galaxies or C-17 Globemaster IIIs. 

That sudden expansion embodied the now-famous term "transformation" and implored engineers like Udo Stürmer, the engineering flight chief, 52nd Civil Engineering Squadron at Spangdahlem, to rethink the future of the rural installation. What was the transformation plan for Spangdahlem anyway? 

"We started by looking at what functions we were getting and what expansions we were executing," Mr. Stümer said, who was already deep into planning for the transition from the draw down of nearby Bitburg Air Base. "This led us to thinking more and more about the future." 

Today Mr. Stürmer is grinding away at executing the plan that arose from that time period, which entails consolidating all existing mission elements from the Air Force's Bitburg, Oberweis, and Sülm annexes into a single location: Spangdahlem. 

That plan is called Spangdahlem 2015. 

"We were bringing over to Spangdahlem the Bitburg clinic and the housing units," Mr. Stürmer said. "And then we thought, hey, why should we have to rely on an annex that was closed in 1994? Why can't we just move everything here?" 

Spangdahlem 2015 calls for about $230 million of consolidation projects including new schools; a new clinic; a new fitness center; a new BX/Commissary; and a new housing area. 

"There's a lot of projects involved in Spangdahlem 2015 and many of which I'm sure we'll be a part of," said Lou Reagan, Europe District resident engineer at Spangdahlem. 

The largest Spangdahlem 2015 project currently being executed by the District is the housing project, Mr. Reagan said. 

The $75 million housing project was initiated both as a response to the closures of Air Force installations throughout Europe and as a reaction to the Pentagon's housing improvement requirements, which required the replacement of the existing 1950s-style stairwell housing units. 

"The units were not meeting the standards," Mr. Stürmer said, "So we needed to have new units." 

The housing project is broken down into three phases, Mr. Reagan said. Although the third phase is still tentative, the first two phases are already underway, ultimately bringing in a total of 139 units, 132 of which will be duplexes. 

Reagan and his team at Spangdahlem are in the middle of managing the placement of infrastructure for the first phase of units, including laying down new heating lines, electrical lines, water lines, telecom lines, and cable lines. 

"It's been a challenge because we continue to discover areas of old, existing infrastructure that we didn't know existed," Mr. Reagan said. "So we have to pull a lot of old, abandoned utilities out and put new utilities in for the new configuration." 

Mr. Reagan said he is working with the contractors to take a proactive approach to handling the infrastructure problems, including identifying the lines before they are "found" and developing plans to coordinate their removal. 

Because of this proactive stance, Mr. Reagan said the contractor is "from all views, slightly ahead of schedule. They are actually very responsive and are moving out pretty sharply." 

To accomplish the housing project as well as the Spangdahlem 2015 program successfully, Mr. Reagan and Mr. Stürmer are agreed that they will need to continue thinking holistically about the base and its future requirements. 

They are also agreed that they will need continued support from all parties involved. Thankfully, Mr. Reagan said, things are in good shape. 

"I'm very happy and I feel very blessed that we have the partners that we do," Mr. Reagan said of the base and of the state-owned estate and construction management companies called LBBs. "They're actively coming to me and telling me about the projects. I can go over there anytime ... it's a great partnership and I can honestly say that the relationship we have with the LBB here [speaks to] our success."