Support our mission
Members of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, whoop it up Wednesday evening to welcome the Air Force's Installation Excellence Award team. The base is one of three in the Air Force competing for the $1 million prize as the service's top installation.

Members of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, whoop it up Wednesday evening to welcome the Air Force's Installation Excellence Award team. The base is one of three in the Air Force competing for the $1 million prize as the service's top installation. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

Members of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, whoop it up Wednesday evening to welcome the Air Force's Installation Excellence Award team. The base is one of three in the Air Force competing for the $1 million prize as the service's top installation.

Members of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, whoop it up Wednesday evening to welcome the Air Force's Installation Excellence Award team. The base is one of three in the Air Force competing for the $1 million prize as the service's top installation. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

Brig. Gen. Mark Matthews, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, welcomes Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson to RAF Lakenheath, England, on Wednesday evening. Anderson leads the Air Force's Installation Excellence Award team.

Brig. Gen. Mark Matthews, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, welcomes Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson to RAF Lakenheath, England, on Wednesday evening. Anderson leads the Air Force's Installation Excellence Award team. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

Senior Airman Nicholas Schiro welcomes the Installation Excellence Award team to RAF Lakenheath, England.

Senior Airman Nicholas Schiro welcomes the Installation Excellence Award team to RAF Lakenheath, England. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Security forces cars with flashing lights escorted the blue Air Force bus across the base.

As the bus pulled into the parking lot of the Eagles’ Landing officers’ club Wednesday evening, several hundred 48th Fighter Wing airmen blew shrill whistles and chanted the wing’s nickname, “Lib-er-tee! Lib-er-tee!”

When the bus rolled to a stop, several airmen surrounded it and rocked it back and forth while the cacophony continued.

Just who was on board? The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots? The cast of “Desperate Housewives”? Britney?

No, it was the 2005 Installation Excellence Award team — a general and a handful of colonels in civilian clothes.

This is what happens when $1 million is at stake. That’s the prize RAF Lakenheath is competing for against Misawa Air Base, Japan, and McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., in the Commander-in-Chief Award for Installation Excellence.

“Welcome to Laken-Heaven,” Brig. Gen. Mark T. Matthews said as he introduced the team lined up beside him on a stage.

The team, led by Brig. Gen. Mark W. Anderson, had just arrived in England from Japan, where they inspected Misawa. They have already visited McConnell.

“They saved the best for last,” Matthews said to the cheering crowd.

The welcoming rally was designed to show enthusiasm, which may or may not help as the team members inspect every nook and cranny of the base before leaving Friday.

Maj. Gary Schneider, commander of the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight, said the five officers would make 230 stops in less than two days to judge the base’s worthiness.

“We’ve been incredibly busy,” Schneider said in an interview before the bus arrived. “Every unit on base is involved.”

The award is not about appearance, although that’s part of it, Schneider said, and the reason people with rakes and shovels have been obvious around the base this week.

“It’s all about excellence in what we do,” he said. “It’s about making the mission happen.”

The inspection takes place while the wing is supporting more than 1,100 of its members deployed to the Middle East.

The team will look at several things, including work environment, quality of life, productivity, customer satisfaction and unit cohesiveness.

The winner will be announced in the spring.

If RAF Lakenheath is successful, Matthews will travel to Washington to pick up the trophy, a flag denoting the base’s honor and a letter of congratulations signed by the president.

The money will be used for quality-of-life improvements on the base.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up