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Loadmasters from the 164th Airlift Squadron prepare to begin pre-flight inspections April 11, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Loadmasters from the 164th Airlift Squadron prepare to begin pre-flight inspections April 11, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Alexis Wade/U.S. Air National Guard)

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Pope Army Airfield has reopened after being closed nearly four months for repairs, a Fort Bragg news release stated Thursday.

The repairs were finished on time and under budget, with improvements to the runway and airfield electrical system, the news release stated.

Army officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee last year that $25 million was approved in fiscal year 2020 for airfield lighting repair, and another $65 million was planned for repairs to the runway and taxiways in fiscal year 2021.

"Since World War II, Pope Army Airfield has served as a critical component of America's national security infrastructure," said Lt. Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps. "The airfield construction incorporated state of the art designs and upgrades that allow Fort Bragg to remain the premier power projection platform into the future."

Fort Bragg units temporarily used regional airports, including Fayetteville Regional Airport, during the repairs.

Joint Base Charleston, S.C., was also used for the Immediate Response Force's rapid deployment to Afghanistan to support evacuation and withdrawal efforts.

The project at Pope Army Airfield includedreplacing asphalt with concrete.

An asphalt runway must be repaired every 10 to 15 years, whereas concrete needs repairs every 50 to 60 years, the news release stated.

The electrical design incorporated lighting, software, electric conduits, and fiber optics. The project included 184,000 work hours and 91,000 cubic yards of concrete.

The airfield hasn't been "completely resurfaced" or had a lighting upgrade in more than 50 years, said Col. Joseph Vanoni, commander of the 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group.

"Had this project not been done, the airfield would have been unusable in the next 2-5 years," Vanoni said. "This project allows the DOD to once again project the joint force, whether that be the Immediate Response Force, the National Mission Force or other locally assigned unit, from Pope Army Airfield for the next 50 years."

The Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District oversaw the project, and RC Construction Co. was awarded the contract.

"The coordination between 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg Garrison, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers was world-class," said Col. David Fielder, 18th Airborne Corps engineer officer. "Our coordination efforts helped bring the project in early and within budget."

The first aircraft to touchdown after the airfield reopened Thursday was an Air Force C-17 with Kurilla, Vanoni and Col. Scott Pence, Fort Bragg's commander aboard.

rriley@fayobserver.com

(c)2021 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com

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