State of the Base: Dover Air Force Base completes a busy year of new construction


Col. Craig Peters, 512th Airlift Wing commander and Col. Ethan Griffin, 436th Airlifter Wing commander, stand with Central Delaware
Chamber of Commerce leaders and Delaware’s congressional delegation at the State of the Base Breakfast Monday at Dover Air
Force Base. Shown, from left, are chamber executive board chairman Sean Mace, chamber vice chairman for military affairs Lynne
Schaefer, chamber president Judy Diogo, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Col. Peters, Col. Griffin, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and U.S.
Sen. Chris Coons. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne)

DOVER — Dover Air Force Base’s future appears to be relatively safe after $102 million in new runway construction invested in the facility during a project that’s taken more than two years to complete.

Either that or the state is going to end up with one heck of a drag-racing strip.

That was just one of many things learned as Dover Air Force Base and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce joined forces to host the annual State of the Base Briefing (MilCon) breakfast at The Landings on base Monday morning.

The MilCon breakfast serves as a chance for the public to learn about the base’s activities and construction projects that have been recently completed to prepare the facility for long-term viability, as well as discuss future projects that are in the works.

Col. Ethan Griffin, commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, and Col. Craig Peters, commander of the 512th Airlift Wing, spoke before a roomful of more than 100 military members, business proponents and state and local leaders about what has been a busy time at the air base this year.

“It’s been a monumental year if you think about it — 300th anniversary of our city (Dover), the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force, the greatest air fighting force known to man in its history, and, of course, the 75th year of Dover Air Force Base’s inception back in 1941,” Col. Griffin said. “We’ve worked on a number of things and the economic impact has been tremendous.

“As you can see, there’s over a $570 million impact with our $10 billion in assets, which includes our facilities and aircraft, as well as our 6,000 strong folks serving in uniform. Then you add in our civilian airmen another 1,000 on top of that and their families … we total 11,000 strong here at Dover Air Force Base.

“Those 11,000 strong do a great job in responsibly spending the resources to make sure we can keep doing our mission.”

One very busy year at base

It certainly has been a busy year at Dover AFB.

The last 11 months have seen the runway construction project that has been taking place for more than two years nearly completed.

“This is the first time in two years as we close that project out that we’ve had both runways active,” Col. Griffin said. “That was a massive project and it’s some of the best pavement you will see in our United States Air Force, or in the world.

“It’s set to last over 50 years so it’s a great investment in the future of Dover Air Force Base.”

The “Thunder Over Dover” Open House also took place in late August and brought 75,000 visitors to the base and, most recently, three hurricanes kept airmen particularly busy flying numerous relief flights to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Add to the mix a 15-day shutdown of the C-5M Super Galaxy’s after the nose-gear landing assembly failed during a couple of landings earlier this year and things just get crazier.

Dover’s maintenance crew played an integral role in discovering the faulty part in the landing-gear assembly and the aircraft were flying again in just more than two weeks.

That’s not including the routine things that are seen as “business as usual” for the thousands of airmen on base.

Future construction plans

Col. Griffin also detailed future construction projects that are in the plans such improving the fence that surrounds the base, its civilian engineering capability, fire response, dormitories and child development center.

The base is also working on making improvements to its fitness trails and athletic fields, basketball courts, pavilions, adding a patio to a dining facility and making upgrades to audio-visual components.

Larger plans in the works are the construction of a hangar that will be large enough to perform maintenance work on a C-5 or C-17 in a weatherproof, fully-enclosed area, a new school on base that should open in 2020, the installation of a type 3 fire hydrant refueling system on the base’s hot cargo pad, and an effort to make the facility more bicycle friendly.

Dignitaries show support

A number of state and local dignitaries were in attendance at Monday morning’s MilCon event, including: Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons, Gov. John Carney and Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester.

They all made remarks that they are certainly aware of what Dover Air Force Base means to the state and local economy.

“The base is an incredible bank of workforce and talent to central Delaware and to our state,” Gov. Carney said. “That’s probably as important of a factor as anything in terms of driving our economy.

“It certainly has an incredible economic impact in our state with almost a half billion dollars of spending on an annual basis.”

Sen. Coons also talked about the bond the facility has forged with the local area.

“The Dover experience is from everything I’ve ever heard – unique – and not just in the Air Mobility Command, but in the entire United States Armed Forces,” he said. “There are a lot of communities that provide support to their bases, but Dover does a better job than any community in America in providing thanks, encouragement and support.”

Rep. Rochester thanked the base for everything that it does.

“You protect us at home during natural disasters,” she said. “You do it abroad and protect us all around the world and sacrifice even your family and friends in being away from them.

“We’re very fortunate to have so many dedicated, brave and selfless men and women serving right here in our state.”

DAFB, CDCC connect again

There are a couple of words – “Team” and “We” – that always seem to come together when Dover Air Force Base and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce get together.

That’s because the two entities say they are close partners with each other’s interests in mind when it comes to supporting one another.

The MilCon event wasn’t the first time the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce has connected with Dover AFB in 2017.

The CDCC recognized Dover Air Force Base as Delaware’s large employer of the year at its Awards for Excellence Dinner in June. Dover AFB is the fifth largest employer in the state.

Judy Diogo, president of the CDCC, loves getting the chance to visit with her friends at “Team Dover” at the Air Force base.

“I don’t think Dover could survive without Dover Air Force Base,” Ms. Diogo said. “It would be a very different world and we are very, very fortunate to have them. We can never take Dover Air Force Base for granted.

“Dover Air Force Base really is part of Dover and those (economic) numbers continue to grow year after year.”

Col. Corey Simmons, 436th Airlift Wing vice commander, noted the support the base receives on a routine basis from the local area.

“There’s something special about Dover,” Col. Simmons said. “There’s a partnership and friendship that extends beyond the fence, throughout the state and even throughout all of Delmarva.

“We’re truly blessed to have such a great community supporting us.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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