A Changing Landscape
By Master Sgt. Aaron Smith, 102nd Intelligence Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 09, 2011
OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- For the occasional retiree or old unit member who hasn't been to Otis Air National Guard Base in the last year, they might be surprised to see how much the base they've known for so long has changed.
Soon after the threat of closure and completion of their fighter wing mission, the 102nd quickly jumped into to its new role as an intelligence wing. It adapted current buildings and spaces to a new purpose, using what it could to charge ahead and embrace its new role. Now the base and its facilities are finally catching up.
Construction and demolition have been occurring all over the base during the last year. The construction projects range from the creation of a three-quarter mile outdoor running track to the creation of new multi-million dollar buildings. Construction of a new 33,000 square foot intelligence squadron operations building, and a 7,600 square foot administrative building, are scheduled to be completed in December of this year. Along with that, a new 28,500 square foot Operations and Training building is scheduled to be done by the end of spring, next year. Colonel Anthony Schiavi, commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, said, "A lot of the things you see going on right now are going to put us in more modern, more mission relevant buildings, with better energy efficiency." Along with these many projects has come the demolition of other buildings, buildings that symbolized the essence of the old flying mission.
In January of this year the fuel storage tanks and equipment that supported them were taken down and the land returned to its natural state. More recently in June, the Alert facility, where the 102nd Fighter Wing had maintained a 24 hour-a-day, 365 day-a-year watch, for over 35 years, was demolished. There are a number of reasons why these facilities are being taken down. Col. Schiavi notes, "These building can be very hard to maintain, very expensive, and they're not part of our mission. From a cost perspective you have to be as efficient as you can. If we have buildings that we're not using, the paint starts to fall of, and our base just doesn't look good, not to mention they cost a tremendous amount in terms of heat and electricity." In fact, since January of this year Civil Engineering has taken down at least twenty structures, according to Mr. Robert Blair of the 102nd Civil Engineering Squadron. Along with these projects comes a change in the general layout of Otis ANGB.
The vision for the type of base Otis will be in the future has changed. Lt. Col. Stephen Demianczyk of the 102nd Civil Engineering Squadron notes, "We have moved away from the industrial type 'Fighter Wing' complex to a more high-tech, energy efficient 'campus' style workplace where personnel can readily walk between buildings for day-to-day interactions." Building placement is not the only aspect of the base changing though. "Right now our land holdings on the base are almost 4000 acres. Our ultimate plan is to get down to less than 300", Col. Schiavi said. A large part of that reduction will come from the handing over of the airfield and associated areas that are no longer needed since the 102nd ceased its flying mission in 2008. Further changes include the planned relocation of the Civil Engineering facility from outside of the fence perimeter to a location close to the Medical Squadron. The whole process will unfold over the next three to five years as the Civil Engineering Squadron pushes forward, even while dealing with the complications and delays that may arise.
During construction, there have been challenges, whether over funding or regulations or equipment, that have confronted Civil Engineering. Lt. Col. Demianczyk notes, "The most challenging part of these projects has been the evolving intelligence facility requirements. We've needed to be flexible enough to execute contract modifications due to new intelligence requirements in order to prevent us from building a facility that couldn't meet the mission needs." Lt. Col Demianczyk went on to note that personnel like Mr. Bob Blair, who leads the engineering section in Civil Engineering, and Mr. Paul Helmuth, the primary construction manager on three of the current projects, have both been working hard on the numerous adjustments and complex problems that happen in any project of this size. Despite these hurdles, Col. Schiavi noted that there has already been great progress. "We're probably three to five years ahead of where I thought we would be", he stated.
In the end, the goal is to fully transform Otis Air National Guard Base into an efficient and modernized base. Beyond the large construction lies future plans for curbs and sidewalks, workout stations around the track, multiple landscaping projects, and other plans that will bring back the vibrancy that Otis once had. In addition, the museum has plans to refurbish and redisplay the static display aircraft that trace back the wings' history. For the Retiree who hasn't been to Otis in years, things have indeed changed. It has gone from a base on the verge of closure to one that has new life and purpose.