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HISTORY: AFCEE marked by moves

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Schneider
  • AFCEE Public Affairs

Employees at the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment here have called many places home over the last 20 years.

When the organization was first established in 1991, home consisted of a trailer park of sorts; a set of modular buildings situated across Brooks AFB, Texas.

"They were not bad," said J.B. Cole, AFCEE's first director. "It's just that organizationally, it's unhandy to have people scattered around in different locations."

Mr. Cole visualized a centralized home for the agency and said former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm was instrumental in obtaining the necessary funding to construct the building, later to be known as Bldg. 532.

AFCEE employees were given a voice in the design of the new building, with surveys and interviews being conducted to gain input on the staff's needs.

Ground was broken for the facility July 13, 1994, when Maj. Gen. George K. Anderson, former Human Systems Center commander, and Col. Thomas W. Gorges, former AFCEE commander, did the symbolic turning of the soil. Other Brooks officials and contractor representatives were also in attendance.

Initial plans had estimated a 56,000 square-foot facility for 275 employees. They would increase several times as the organization continued to expand, with the final plans coming to just under 73,000 square feet and able to accommodate 365 employees.

The ribbon-cutting for the new $9 million building was held Aug. 16, 1995, with Maj. Gen. Eugene Lupia, the Air Force Civil Engineer at the time, presiding over the ceremony.

The expectation was that the building would consolidate all AFCEE functions under one roof. However, because the center was growing at such a rapid pace, it had outgrown the facility before it even opened its doors, said Dave Duncan, AFCEE senior architect.

"By the time the building was ready to be moved into, not everybody fit," Mr. Duncan said. "The design group and others stayed in trailers for years. One time, Mr. Erickson (former AFCEE director) wanted everyone to come up with a theme for AFCEE. The prize was that you could park in his reserved parking spot (at Bldg. 532) for a month. We (the design group) thought it was pretty funny considering how far we were (from Bldg. 532)."

In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission placed Brooks on its list of installations to be closed, forcing AFCEE to find a new home. Building 171 at the former Kelly AFB, now Port San Antonio, was chosen as the new site for AFCEE's headquarters.

Exterior and interior improvements have been ongoing to outfit the almost 70-year-old building for its new purpose, with special efforts being made to make it more energy efficient and sustainable, said Wayne Reber, AFCEE's built infrastructure branch chief.

AFCEE employees began moving into the 452,000 square-foot facility in late 2009, inhabiting two bays out of the eight that comprise the facility. Contingency construction was the last AFCEE division to transfer, completing the move in November 2010.

The Small Business Division, no longer aligned under AFCEE and now part of the 772nd Enterprise Sourcing System, moved to the building in December 2010.

The facility will ultimately house almost 3,000 employees across 12 Air Force agencies, including AFCEE.