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Ops Group building renovation begins

In preparation for the remodeling of building 44, Airman 1st Class Vanessa Ferreria, aviation resource manager, packs her office Aug. 8 to move near building 40, also known as the Bell Building. The remodeling is scheduled to take 18 to 24 months during which time Operations Group and 152nd Fighter Squadron personnel will function primarily from trailers. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones)

In preparation for the remodeling of building 44, Airman 1st Class Vanessa Ferreria, aviation resource manager, packs her office Aug. 8 to move near building 40, also known as the Bell Building. The remodeling is scheduled to take 18 to 24 months during which time Operations Group and 152nd Fighter Squadron personnel will function primarily from trailers. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The much-anticipated renovation of the Operations Group facilities at building 44, which includes replacing the roof, upgrading heating and cooling systems, and the reorganization of offices, is now in progress.

"The remodeling is going to take 18 months; we are anticipating as long as 24 months. The contractors have already received the notice to proceed, which means they have officially started," said Lt. Col. Kevin Wilhelm, program manager for the remodel.

Wilhelm and the 150 members and contractors that work in the building anticipate challenges will arise from the dispersal of offices at six different areas on the base.

"The idea is to move the operations-related personnel near the Bell Building [building 40]; the staff-related personnel will all stay in this area [building 44] with temporary facilities," said Colonel Wilhelm.

However, there will be some exceptions.

"Intel will be relocated to the 3rd floor of building 9; command post to building 1. The C-26 people will be near the avionics pods," said Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Trueblood, chief enlisted manager and airfield manager for the Operations Group.

"Lockheed-Martin will be relocated to TAGRA [building 15]; some of life support training such as cockpit familiarization trainer and parachute apparatus will be relocated to building 6 [the storage facility west of the dining facility]," Colonel Wilhelm said.

Another concern for all wing members during the remodeling will be parking. Several trailers are scheduled to be brought in to serve as temporary working facilities for the Operations Group. Some of these trailers will be placed in areas that will not impact parking; however, one trailer is already placed in 10 parking spaces near building 44.

Careful thought went into ensuring the impact on parking will be minimal by using available parking areas in the West 40 parking lot. However, there will still be some impact and wing members should plan accordingly, especially during UTA weekends.

And with folks spread out in so many locations, the Operations Group will have other challenges to face as well.

"Communication and finding places to meet to do our enlisted stand-ups and pilot meetings will be a challenge. Some of the challenge will be overcoming the diversity of being spread out on the base and still meet the mission requirements," said Chief Trueblood.

Each section will also have individual challenges and difficulties to overcome.

"We are not going to have open storage with the access of the vault. Instead, we are going to have a safe and we'll have to cram everything into the safe to include our computers. Not having that accessibility is going to be difficult for us," said Senior Master Sgt. Stephanie Huether, intelligence superintendent.

Despite the difficulties, the remodeling will produce lasting benefits for operations.

"The remodeling is a good thing; the main issue is the heating and cooling system. It's been messed up for some time now - you can either turn it off or turn it on, there is no happy medium. It's been a real challenge in the last 10 years to balance that out. We have contractors here in our building that we have to provide with a good working environment. Also, we train our international students and during the classes it can get too hot," Chief Trueblood said.

"I am happy they are going to fix the heating and cooling; one day it could be safari the next it's arctic. One day during the winter we were allowed to wear our PT gear because it was so hot," said Sergeant Huether.

"Once construction is complete all the offices that are currently working here will still be working in this building - there will be no difference," Colonel Wilhelm said.

And the newly-refurbished building will better meet the needs of all those who use or visit the building.

"Right now OG and Standardization and Evaluation work very closely together and are on opposite ends of the building; they travel through restrooms to get to one another. We are cleaning all that up," said Colonel Wilhelm. Also, "life support has their functional areas spread out; they have some up stairs, some down stairs. We are bringing everything for life support upstairs and securing life support so it will no longer be a thoroughfare - it needs to be a controlled area."

Other areas will be moved as well.

"About 25 percent of the walls on the first floor will change; downstairs the Lockheed-Martin area will become the 152nd area, so that will be a big change," the colonel said. "We took the opportunity to relocate everything within the building and if it didn't fit, that's when we started moving walls."

However, the remodeling does not presently call for any changes to the outside of the building besides the roof.

"We have some problems with the sidewalk and the facade of the building cracking and breaking. Unfortunately ... it was more aesthetics than it was functionality of the building, so we elected to focus on the functionality and do the landscaping and other things as more money comes available in the future," Colonel Wilhelm said.

"My goal is to not miss a single day flying," he said. "So far I think that's going to work; we're going to have some pitfalls, but everybody in this building has been supportive. It will require a team effort."

With a footprint larger than 60,000 square feet, the remodeling of building 44 will be a monumental task. But leadership is confident the challenges will be overcome and customer service will continue throughout the remodeling process.