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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Leaders here recently gathered for a look into Dover AFB's future, to see how the base will need to change and adapt to meet new security and mission requirements.

Among those putting predictions into building plans and funding requirements were Col. John I. Pray Jr., 436th Airlift Wing commander; Col. Chuck Smiley, 436th Mission Support Group commander; Lt. Col. Kent Nonaka, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron commander; and John Sclesky, 436th CES engineering flight chief.

"While we are all focused on supporting on-going operations to the best of our ability, leaders at all levels need to look to the future," said Colonel Pray. "The base horizon plan captures our strategy for making needed facility improvements over the next decade and beyond ... it is a fantastic product."

A comprehensive development plan was the ordinary way to go, but Colonel Pray asked to see a simple picture of what the wing needed, organized by year and prioritized, layered and easy to follow, according to Colonel Nonaka. So the civil engineers did just that and recently shared the product with Eagle Wing leaders.

Call-out boxes and brightly colored building outlines on base maps showed which projects would get top priority for each year out to 2006, then for a period covering 2007-2010.

"We're starting with three completely redesigned and reconstructed base entry gates, and plan to finish each by the end of the year," said Mike Mendoza, the new wing anti-terrorism advisor.

According to Mr. Mendoza, each gate will be better suited for vehicle searches and stopping potential intruders, while also providing security forces better protection from the elements.

"Truck traffic will reroute to the south gate, nearer to Exchange and Commissary warehouses, and to the air freight terminal on Atlantic Avenue," said Mendoza of the $6.6 million project. Traffic will suffer some disruption, "but I think everyone will realize how much safer from terrorism this makes the base, and how quickly this will be done," Mr. Mendoza said.

But the gates aren't the only high priority project; a new $7.6 million fire station near the passenger terminal is scheduled for completion by summer. Replacing the current outmoded and outgrown structure near the aerial port, the new station works well for both equipment and firefighters, said Mr. Sclesky.

"This gives our firefighters training areas and parking for all emergency equipment under one roof, and they're in a much better location to respond to aircraft emergencies," he said, "Dover AFB has needed these capabilities for years."

More than just a great facility, Mr. Sclesky pointed out the new fire station is a perfect example of how several different construction projects need to link almost perfectly for each to be completed.

"The old station must be demolished because it's located within the footprint of the new air freight terminal, but can't be until the new station is completed," Mr. Sclesky said. "Therefore, any delays in completing the new fire station will delay demolition of the old."

Building the new airfreight terminal will start this summer, and involves much more than simply putting up a building, says Colonel Smiley.

"Not only will the old fire station go, but we also will move our flight line parts store and the deployment cargo marshalling area, plus make a new outdoor wash rack for our aircraft," Colonel Smiley said. "Most people know we've already moved the passenger deployment line from Building 582 to the Passenger Terminal to prepare for this."

The colonel said money for new base construction is hard to come by, but many don't realize this is only part of the cost in bringing new facilities on line.

"For instance, the new $57.7 million freight terminal needs another $20 million in freight handling equipment to be functional," he said. "But we made sure this was known and the Air Force stepped up to fund that for the Defense Department's largest aerial port." He said the new terminal should be completed by early 2007.

Also for this year, Colonel Smiley said Dover will start building to accommodate the C-5's avionics modernization program. A refurbished maintenance building next to the flightline and another next to the flying squadrons for training will help the base usher in the first major modification for the C-5 since 1987, when new wings were installed on the fleet, said Colonel Smiley.

Perhaps the most visible changes are those in base housing. More than 200 new units with modern features and garages, scheduled to be ready for occupancy this summer, are only a taste of what families on base will enjoy, noted Mr. Sclesky. "By spring of 2005, we're joining the general DOD trend to privatize management and maintenance of family housing," he said.

While most families won't be affected or affected very little, Eagle Meadows will be closed and Eagle Heights will be the only housing area on base. All older units will be demolished and replaced with new, more spacious duplex and single-family homes. Mr. Sclesky said that by 2010, based on research that revealed actual military housing needs, Dover AFB should have 980 new homes, all located close to base workplaces and offering convenient access to shopping, activities and schools.