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Rebuilding Raptor Town
Buildings await completion at the Raptor Town construction site at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Jan., 23, 2012. The old raptor town was demolished, and the new training site is being rebuilt to provide a permanent area that accurately resembles a deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins/Released)
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New ‘Raptor Town’ provides world-class expeditionary training

Posted 2/6/2012   Updated 2/6/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Senior Airman Jason J. Brown
633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs


2/6/2012 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- The 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron is bringing the battlefield to our backyard with its new Raptor Town expeditionary training area, providing Airmen the most realistic deployment experience available at Langley Air Force Base to date.

The 4-acre zone is nestled on the northern side of the installation, secured in a wood line to create a realistic, expeditionary-base environment. Engineers began work in January 2011 to build the area, which will serve Langley Airmen, mission partners and visiting personnel when needed.

According to 1st Lt. Eric Robinette, the Raptor Town officer-in-charge, the site is designed to replace its antiquated predecessor located off nearby Durand Loop Road, and implements real-world mission requirements from Langley's units. Permanent construction, including 16 hardened facilities, or "SWAHUTS," Single Palletized Expeditionary Kitchen hook-ups, robust electrical, water and communication lines, and "giant voice" capabilities are all included at the new site, which reflects current military construction in Afghanistan.

"What we're trying to pursue is creating a training environment that provides the most value to our Airmen here, striving to support the requirements for combatant commanders by training military forces to successfully deploy downrange," said Lt. Col. Marc Vandeveer, the 633rd CES commander. "Raptor Town enables that by taking us out of the Cold War era, replacing hardback tents with (general purpose) medium tent covers, and moving us to an environment more in line with expectations of what were truly seeing downrange.

"It's a huge improvement from our former location just off the road across the street from the golf course," Vandeveer said with a laugh. "No more people driving by asking us what we're doing when we're attempting to simulate being on the other side of the world."

The unit completed all construction in house, alleviating the need for contracted construction. Vandeveer and Robinette explained that most of the time, Airmen complete only standard, repetitive facility maintenance at home station. Building Raptor Town gave engineers the opportunity to practice the skills typically applied downrange, building the base from the ground up.

"Construction of Raptor Town allowed us to exercise real-world skills in the civil engineering community that we need to train on," Vandeveer said."We utilize these skills every day downrange in expeditionary civil engineer squadrons or on Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Without a successful (Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force) program doing this training, we'd be sending less-than-optimally prepared Airmen downrange to support war efforts."

Not only did in-house construction provide excellent training opportunities, it significantly cut costs. The 633rd CES reduced construction costs by 25 percent as opposed to contracting the project, an element Vandeveer said was "deliberately planned due to the budget-constrained environment."

"Had we not done this work now, we likely would not have been able to do it this year considering the budget constraints," he added.

In addition to engineers, Airmen from across the 633rd Mission Support Group contributed labor efforts to the project, as well as teams of cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy. The 633rd Mission Support and Medical Groups will have a "significant footprint" at the site, expanding the training benefit to as many Airmen as possible.

In May, Air Force Reserve Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, or RED HORSE, will begin a training program at Raptor Town through September. The RED HORSE teams will build permanent storage and shower facilities, and pave roadways at the site. These projects will fulfill their training requirements and further cut construction costs for the 633rd CES. In total, the Air Force Reserve will dedicate 50 percent of its 2013 RED HORSE training capability to the Raptor Town project.

The first exercise at Raptor Town will be Langley's first operational readiness exercise of 2012, a Phase II ORE scheduled for mid-February. The site will be used at maximum capability during a combined Phase I & II ORE in April.

"This is an awesome training experience, and it's going to get even better. We intend to have a full complement of everything we need to support our mission partners, and it's going to be world-class," Vandeveer said. "If the old Raptor Town was a 1.0, our new site is a 10.0... Every base has a training area, but no base has one that's this high-quality."



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