By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The 139th Airlift Wing at the Rosecrans Air National Guard Base in St. Joseph has been expanding northward for some time.
The base has been expanding north for the last couple of years, moving to land that was undamaged by the flood of 1993.
In recent weeks and months, the expansion project has reached some major goals. Most notably, a nearly $5.9 million communications building - a 15,000 square foot facility that just opened in late August.
"We realized that having a state-of-the-art communications building was paramount to the success of the base moving north," said Colonel John Cluck, Commander of the 139th Airlift Wing. "We jokingly consider it our largest weapons system. The communications and computer network it supports are almost as vital to this wing as the C-130s we fly."
Another large piece of the expansion project, a new C-130 flight simulator, is already being built. Construction for that, Col. Cluck says, began last October.
"Expect to be in that building in about a year-and-a-half from now," he said. "A building as complicated as that, it's not easily built. But, a year or two, or year-and-a-half. Some time line like that."
Once the flight simulator is ready, the next big item for the 139th Airlift Wing is a new aircraft parking apron. Cluck says getting this large, airplane parking lot built will be key, as that will open the door for some other structures to be built.
"That's a pretty big project," Cluck said of the apron. "Once we get that built, we can start parking the aircraft up there, and we'll go after things such as our hangars and our maintenance shops and things like that."
Members of the 139th are also pleased to see a major overhaul of the Rosecrans Memorial Airport runway coming soon. The St. Joseph City Council passed an emergency ordinance to authorize major repairs on it.
While the runway project is not officially part of the 139th's northward expansion, it's a welcome sight nonetheless, says Cluck.
"It shows how much we are supported by our local politicians," Cluck remarked," and from our local area as a whole. If we didn't a viable run way on this airfield, eventually we couldn't continue to exist."
The design and construction of the runway will total more than $42 million. The Air National Guard will pay for 70 percent of the project.
A federal grant from the FAA will cover the other 30 percent. The city of St. Joseph only has to pay for 10 percent of that FAA grant.
"When we get that runway in here, we're for a long time," Cluck said. "We want to continue to serve not only our nation, but also our locals as they serve us. So, we're glad to be here and be a part of that."
The 139th Airlift has been building and looking northward for a couple of years now. Not only are they better protected from future flooding on the Missouri River, but they also have more ample space to build the things they need.
The flight simulator, once completed, will be the Airlift's seventh building at the base. They've added a security forces building, a medical detachment, air traffic control, a firehouse and even a running track.
The communication building project also included a storm water drainage effort, adding a basin and culvert, which cost around $2.8 million.
Col. Cluck credits the city of St. Joseph for leasing the 139th Airlift Wing enough land to make this continuing expansion possible.
"The city was accommodating enough to give us a piece of blank ground that, I call it our 'blank canvas,'" Cluck said. "We can paint it however we want. They've been very accommodating to us and in that process, we have a whole master planned laid out where every building will go and accommodate what we need heading into the 21st century."
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