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New facilities enhance quality of life on base

By James Coburn | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 4, 2007

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Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — More than 1,000 military personnel on Lackland Training Annex may feel like they're eating in a fancy restaurant now, after returning from Christmas Exodus to find a large new facility open for their dining pleasure, replacing the cramped, hot and 35-year-old Medina Inn.

The new dining facility, mainly serving technical training students and instructors from the 342nd, 343rd and 344th Training Squadrons and members of the 90th Intelligence Squadron, is among $60.3 million in major building projects scheduled for openings early this year, including new dormitories for 1,000 technical training students and a huge new Youth Center.

"These projects reflect a continuation of quality-of-life improvements for our Airmen and their families," said Eddie Larkan, chief of contracts, Engineering Flight, 37th Civil Engineer Squadron.

John Creel, 37th Mission Support Group food service officer, said the new LTA dining facility that opened Jan. 3 replaces the second-oldest food-service building on base. He said the Medina Inn, where inside temperatures sometimes climbed into the 90s because of malfunctioning air conditioning, has been closed.

Mr. Creel said the new facility is larger, having a capacity of 1,500 diners compared to 1,300 in the old dining hall. He said it has four serving lines instead of three, and three dining areas instead of two. "It's a nicer layout," he said, noting it has wooden floors, more lighting - "just more modern and up-to-date."

A new 200-room, 400-person dormitory for 342nd TRS students will open the first week of February or sooner, depending on delivery and installation of furniture and appliances, on LTA just across Apollo Drive from the new dining facility. The $15.9 million dorm is adjacent and identical to a dorm for 344th TRS students that opened in August 2005.

Master Sgt. Renee Concentine, 342nd TRS Military Training Flight chief, said the students will be very excited to move from the 40-year-old Bldg. 146 with its open-bay showers and shortage of wall lockers into new double-occupancy rooms with a shower, two lavatories and two walk-in closets.

Courses taught by the 342nd TRS include pararescue indoctrination; Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape indoctrination; combat control orientation; and Explosive Ordnance Disposal preliminary.

Slated to open soon on main Lackland across Selfridge Avenue from the commissary and east of Lackland Elementary School is the new 34,180-square-foot Youth Center.

David Dose of Headquarters, Air Force Services Agency in San Antonio, said the center was built with $8.2 million in Services funds that came from purchases at Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities.

"This Youth Center will supplement the overcrowded existing Lackland and Kelly youth centers and replace the Lackland Teen Center," Mr. Larkan said.

"It's a gorgeous facility," said Dan Williamson, 37th CES project manager, noting it has two gyms: a University Interscholastic League high school regulation size for tournament basketball or volleyball, and a smaller multipurpose gym that has a full kitchen.

Mr. Larkan said the interior also includes a 5,000-square-foot school-age area that can accommodate 144 children, plus pre-teen and teen areas. He said the exterior has play equipment on resilient surfacing, a basketball court, gardens, shading devices and grassy areas, all enclosed with a protective fence.

Debra Willey, flight chief for Family Member Programs, said the new center may open in February.

A new 300-room dorm for 600 security forces students from the 343rd TRS is scheduled to open the first week of February or sooner, depending on delivery and installation of furniture and appliances, at the north end of Carswell Avenue on the training side of main Lackland. The larger dorm and the LTA dining hall are in the same $33.4 million military construction contract.

Northeast of the larger dorm, and expected to open in February, is a nearly 13,000-square-foot physical apprehension restraint technique (PART) training facility being built for $2.8 million to support the Security Forces Apprentice Course.

Completed last month were two major electrical projects, one for $3.7 million to upgrade obsolete switchgear for Wilford Hall Medical Center and the other for $1.9 million for switchgear in a new air-conditioned building on LTA.

Elias Abdulahad, 37th CES project manager, said the LTA switchgear was located outside and was unreliable, once experiencing a six-hour power outage that ended tech training classes for the day. The hospital switchgear upgrade was a proactive move. "We did not wait for a major outage," Mr. Abdulahad said.