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NEWS | June 28, 2024

MILCON Construction Supports Mission Readiness

By Erik Siegel 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Department of Defense military construction program is the go-to means for military installations to design, construct, and renovate their facilities throughout the world.

733d Mission Support Group Civil Engineer Squadron utilized the MILCON program for one such facility on JBLE: new barracks for advanced individual training soldiers with the 128th Aviation Brigade.

“In terms of awarding construction projects, from an enterprise level, there are certain projects that are weighted more heavily in that either the Army or the Air Force…really wants to emphasize,” said Dale Kelch, 733d CES engineering flight chief. “For the last couple of years, that emphasis has been on barracks, and child development centers. So, if we had projects in the pipeline to construct something like that, they scored higher on the rack and stack and are more likely to get awarded.”

The MILCON process, which is defined in 10 U.S. Code § 2801, is a slow, deliberate one, taking up to five years from conceptualization to completion. It covers all sorts of construction projects, including facilities, airfield pavements, and utility systems. It’s in the interest of DOD installations to use MILCON funding for projects, as the associated cost doesn’t come from an installations annual budget, which is beneficial as the contracted cost for these new barracks was around $55 million.

“Our budget that we get on an annual basis is roughly $8 million, a drop in the bucket compared to [$55 million],” said Kelch. “And with that $8 million, we are required to maintain the whole base; every roof leak, every pothole, every minor alteration…all that stuff comes out of that…pot of money we get on an annual basis. These big investments we just don't have the funding for, so that's where the military construction project comes in.”

This cost of these new MILCON-built barracks on JBLE-Eustis included several amenities in it which could rival modern hotels, to include game rooms, learning labs, and wi-fi in every room. Other standard amenities included day rooms, vending and ice machines, and laundry services.

“I think it's just to maintain the morale of the soldier,” said Kelch. “It's hard work being a soldier. You can't just drill and train all day; you need some way to blow off steam and relax so that you can be focused for the next day.”

This new 143,000 square foot barracks can house up to 456 soldiers; 300 of which are AIT students with the 128th Aviation Brigade Charlie Company, the remaining 156 are AIT students with Maritime Training Division’s Echo Company. As JBLE is an Air Force-led installation, there are two Air Force instructions which inform the MILCON process. These two are AFI 32-1021, Planning and Programming Military Construction (MILCON) Projects, and AFI 32-1023, Designing and Constructing Military Construction Projects. Despite these AFI’s providing guidance on the process, AIT soldiers will call these barracks home for the foreseeable future.

“I think this is a cookie cutter of the rest of the barracks that are in that campus area,” said Kelch. “They just made another building…to accommodate the anticipated need of the training [and] work that they're doing, and the number…of soldiers that they have. So [the thought is] design one barracks [and]…lather, rinse, repeat.”

However, even with a ‘cookie cutter’ approach, the design from the ground up looks towards the future, in both terms of ecologic and economic. Within the scope of the ecologic, the design teams included high efficiency power usage electrical systems, including LED lighting and motion sensors in rooms, for automatic turnoff when no one is present. In terms of economic, it included the deliberate choice of constructing a whole new facility instead of rehabilitating an older one.

“Sometimes it's a cost benefit analysis,” said Kelch. “We have rules we have to abide by in terms of plant replacement value. Sometimes it's more expensive to rehab something and get it up to current code and habitability standards that may only last for a limited number of years, as opposed to making a slightly larger investment on something new that's going to last longer into the future.”

With this thought of lasting longer in mind, these new barracks have a projected operational lifespan of at least 30 years.