|Airlift Wing will soon operate from $11 million facility at Downing PIA
By ANDY KRAVETZ
Of the Journal Star
Posted Sep 06, 2012 @ 09:39 PM
The flat-screen monitors are dark and many of the rooms are half empty at the 182nd Airlift Wing's new operations center. But within a month, the $11 million building will be the "nerve center" of the Air Guard's flying operations.
This weekend will be the official dedication of the new 27,000-square-foot squadron operations center on its facility at Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport, and Col. William "Robbie" Robertson, the wing's commander, is eager to get moved in.
"We used to have 1,600 square feet for life support, and now, we have almost triple that space," he said. "If you look at what equipment we have evolved to over the years - we have had the C-130s, all the armament, all the armor and the survival vests - they have all grown in size.
"We now have a place to put them instead stuffing them into a corner or into a (storage container) outside."
The new facility will allow Robertson and other senior officers to better track where planes are going and also allow air crews more room for training as well as for preparing for missions.
When the Air National Guard unit moved to its facility off Smithville Road in 1990, the operations center was one of the first buildings occupied. Then, though, the 182nd was a fighter group, with A-37 Dragonflies and later, F-16 Falcons. Such planes have smaller crews than the wing's current C-130H3 Hercules.
The command post sits in one corner of the building. A person must pass through an airlock with a key card to get into the post. Inside, there's a small conference room overlooking another room that has a bank of computers and a wall with a huge dry erase board.
It's in that room, Robertson said, that command staff will go and manage an emergency situation.
Across the way is the flight equipment area, where Senior Master Sgt. Daniel P. Svymbersky said the added space means, for the first time, things like parachutes, life rafts and night-vision goggles are all stored in the same location, saving time for training and maintenance.
U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, who helped to secure funding for the operations center, said the new building will "allow for more efficient support of both national security and domestic operations."
"The 182nd Airlift Wing has played an integral role in the military operations our country has been engaged in since 9/11. I think it's very appropriate and timely that around the anniversary of theSept. 11 attacks that we celebratea new facility for the 182nd Airlift Wing," he said.
The base's security forces will move into the old operations center, with recruiters then moving into the old security forces space.
The base has undergone other improvements over its 20-year life, including a new $10 million building opened in 2008 that houses the 170 members of the 182nd Air Support Operations Group and the 182nd and 169th Air Support Operations Squadrons.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz and read more at his military blog, inFormation, on pjstar.com.