- Associated Press - Saturday, January 24, 2015

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AP) - A historic building at one end of the base runway is getting a new life.

The building was once an ultra-high security area and the home of B-52 bomber crews that stood ready to launch a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union. But it is now undergoing renovations to be the new home of the 339th Flight Test Squadron.

The squadron had hoped to be in the building by now, but flooding in the area last year delayed the project. Some changes were made to ensure that future flooding would not be an issue, and that extended the renovation contract, said Lt. Col. Dan Badia, the 339th commander.

The $2.3 million project is expected to be done by the end of February, and the squadron expects to complete the relocation by the end of March.

The benefit, Badia said, is that it will house the unit under one roof and meet Air Force requirements for space for the unit. The unit has been cited in past inspections for not having enough space for the number of personnel, he said.

When a few vacancies are filled, the squadron will have 48 people working for it. That includes 16 pilots, other flight crew members, parachute packers and other staff.

“We’ve outgrown the facilities that we have,” Badia said. “This allows us to expand our mission, operate under Air Force requirements and also be under the same roof.”

The building is next to an area often referred to as the “Christmas tree.” That’s because the parking spaces where the B-52s once stood ready to launch at a moment’s notice resemble a Christmas tree. That area is now sometimes used to park planes evacuated from other bases when severe weather threatens, and it will remain available for that use. The unit will bring only its personnel to the area, and the planes awaiting a flight test will stay in the same location on the flightline.

The building has undergone extensive renovations inside. On the outside, remnants of the old B-52 compound are still visible, including a nuclear fallout shelter emblem. It largely was a self-contained area with its own kitchen, dormitory and recreational facilities. Outdoors an old swimming pool and tennis court are still there, as well as the old entrance gate topped with rusty barbed wire.

Following overhaul maintenance, the 339th test flies the C-5, C-130 and F-15. Boeing test flies the C-17. The unit is actually an Air Force Reserve Command squadron working for Air Force Materiel Command.

The move could have a greater impact on the base than just giving the unit itself a little more elbow room. It would allow for growth in work done at Robins.

“We have space in the new building for future mission growth,” said Maj. Dan Windham, who is over facilities for the squadron.

The new building also will have a secure area that will allow work on planes’ classified equipment that the base can’t do now. Those components currently are removed from the plane before it comes here.

“This facility allows us to grow with the complex,” Badia said. “With the complex possibly taking on additional work, we would be able to do that with this new facility.”


Information from: The Macon Telegraph, https://www.macontelegraph.com

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