By Master Sgt. Jeremy Farson, 117th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 11, 2020
Alternate Aircrew Facility at the 117th Air Refueling Wing, Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base, Birmingham, Alabama April 17. 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Ken Johnson)
An alternate overnight aircrew facility was opened at the 117th Air Refueling Wing on April 14.
The construction of the facility was planned over the last several years, but was not a top priority until the possibility that the primary facility would not be able to be occupied because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The alternate facility has a kitchen equipped with a stove and dishwasher, a bathroom and three separate bedrooms. It also has a social area furnished with a couch, chairs and a TV in addition to a work area with a computer, printers and a telephone.
“It was amazing and fun to see everyone come together to build it,” said 1st Lt. Will Young, 117th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “This was a great orchestration of multiple on-base entities coming together to accomplish a mission.”
The project was coordinated though the 117th Maintenance Group. They also painted and furnished the facility. The 117th Civil Engineering Squadron installed a new shower and was in charge of the plumbing, electrical wiring and wall preparation. The 117th Communications Flight procured and installed work center equipment and the contracting squadron ensured all funds were spent in accordance with Air Force Instruction and applicable laws.
Staff Sgt. John Caterinichia, a 117 AMXS drill-status crew chief who is also a contractor in his civilian career, headed the wall construction for the bedrooms within the facility. Leadership within his unit recommended him for the project.
“With his finely-tuned skills, they had the walls up in no time,” said Young.
Lt. Col. Steen Milne, the 117th Maintenance Squadron Commander, prioritized the project and Young credits his “get it done” attitude and upbeat energy as key reasons why the project was completed in such a short period of time. It took approximately 72 hours for it to be inhabitable once it became a top priority.
While the primary facility was built with accommodations suited for a home, Young compares the alternate facility to an efficiency hotel room. While being built due to current pandemic conditions the alternate’s long-term purpose will remain the same as it will be used in any future events if the primary facility is not available or uninhabitable. It also can be used by off-base aircrews required to land at the base.
The area where the alternate facility was built had most recently been used as a roll call and break area for the 117 MXS. Before that it served as a temporary maintenance shop for multiple shops within the squadron while updates were underway to permanent work areas.