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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — As 35th Fighter Squadron executive officer, 1st Lt. Erin Hancock has to work closely with the people at the squadron operations desk who operate from the same rundown building she does at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

But what a job getting over to talk to them.

“They’re pretty much at opposite ends of the building,” said Hancock. “We have to go down a hallway, turn right, go down another hallway, turn left, and then around that corner is where the operations desk is. So it’s almost like a maze just to get down there. … It’s a lot more difficult to coordinate matters.”

But the inconvenient layout, plus chronic problems with faulty heating and air conditioning, plus holes in the wall and other effects of age, are about to change.

The squadron hopes to move later this month into a new, state-of-the-art, semi-hardened structure tailor-made to operate efficiently and to survive modern warfare, including chemical attack.

“It’s a quantum leap in combat capability for the squadron,” said Lt. Col. Rob Givens, commander of the squadron, which flies the F-16 fighter. “The building we’re in now, we adapted to. The building we’re moving into was designed for us.”

The one-story, $9 million structure is about 200 yards north of the old one. Kum Sang Construction Co. Ltd began construction in October 2001 under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The new building sits on about a 1.5-acre parcel on the eastern half of the base, home to the 8th Fighter Wing, known as the Wolf Pack.

The new structure is surrounded by earthen berms about 15 feet high to help shield it from blast damage. Its three-foot-thick concrete walls are “splinter-proof” — built to minimize debris that could fall were the building hit by an explosion.

It’s also designed to seal out chemical agents, letting squadron pilots and staff carry on indoors even if chemical weapons have hit outside.

“On the quality-of-life side,” said Givens, “it offers a lot better work space … better heating and air conditioning … better ventilation, nicer facilities, everything is newer. We have excellent shower facilities in case we have to spend long-term residence in the building in time of war. We have a great lounge where we would actually serve meals if we needed to. We’ve got a great briefing room. … All the computer lines are built into the building … not just tacked to the wall.”

The new building also will allow the commander’s support staff, which Hancock heads, to work from offices just seconds down a hall from the operations desk, making needed face-to-face communications much easier.

“It considerably cuts down on the transit,” said Givens.


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