Capital trip for wing commander
Stars and Stripes May 14, 2008
Armed with a laundry list of $350 million worth of construction projects for the 501st Combat Support Wing, Col. Kimberly Toney went to Washington.
The wing commander spent last week on Capitol Hill for the Air Force’s version of a meet-and-greet with the congressional members who control military spending and policies. Less of a lobbying trip and more of an opportunity to explain her wing’s role in the Air Force, Toney said her focus was on educating legislators.
The wing’s mission revolves around providing the operational and domestic foundation for 11 bases and several small units around the United Kingdom and Norway. "Premier" customer support for the 14,300 troops and dependents the 501st serves is job one, she said.
Arranged by the Air Force Legislative Liaison Secretariat, the visitors program pairs commanders from around the world with members from the Senate and House of Representatives who represent key committees for the military.
Among Toney’s top priorities are relocating the medical and dental facilities at RAF Upwood — that small base’s only remaining unit — to 501st headquarters at RAF Alconbury, about 20 minutes away.
"That way, we wouldn’t have to have personnel driving as much … or patients driving as much for appointments," Toney said. The move would close Upwood and cost between $12 million and $14 million.
Other projects high on her list include upgrades to the main operational building at RAF Menwith Hill, widening the gates at RAFs Alconbury and Croughton for large vehicle holding areas as well as refurbishing on-base housing at those two installations.
Toney also wants to push up the construction timeline for a planned $62 million kindergarten-through-12th grade school at Alconbury, particularly if U.S. Africa Command decides to set up its intelligence shop there. Even if that doesn’t happen, the 1950s-era Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe facility still needs replacing sooner than later, she said.
Since DoDDS-Europe’s London Central High at RAF Daws Hill closed in 2007, the 501st has been faced with more educational issues. During the past year, the wing has had to help transition scores of students into public and private British schools.
When headquarters for U.S. Navy Region Europe moved from London to Naples, Italy — a drawdown in England that began nearly four years ago — the 501st also became the NATO administrative agency in the U.K.
"We definitely felt the impact from all that," Toney said. "We’re still fine-tuning some things. The transition has been smooth, though."