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Airmen 1st Class Andrea Matusky, foreground; Rodney Williams, center; and Scott Morin, of the 52nd Fighter Wing are members of Just Airmen, a group that helped design The Brickhouse game center. The Brickhouse is being used as a model for future game centers at U.S. Air Force bases throughout Europe.

Airmen 1st Class Andrea Matusky, foreground; Rodney Williams, center; and Scott Morin, of the 52nd Fighter Wing are members of Just Airmen, a group that helped design The Brickhouse game center. The Brickhouse is being used as a model for future game centers at U.S. Air Force bases throughout Europe. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Airmen 1st Class Andrea Matusky, foreground; Rodney Williams, center; and Scott Morin, of the 52nd Fighter Wing are members of Just Airmen, a group that helped design The Brickhouse game center. The Brickhouse is being used as a model for future game centers at U.S. Air Force bases throughout Europe.

Airmen 1st Class Andrea Matusky, foreground; Rodney Williams, center; and Scott Morin, of the 52nd Fighter Wing are members of Just Airmen, a group that helped design The Brickhouse game center. The Brickhouse is being used as a model for future game centers at U.S. Air Force bases throughout Europe. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Airman 1st Class Anthony Robertson of the 52nd Air Maintenance Squadron lines up a shot at The Brickhouse.

Airman 1st Class Anthony Robertson of the 52nd Air Maintenance Squadron lines up a shot at The Brickhouse. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, left, and 1st Lt. Edward Reynado of the 52nd Services Squadron play Super Chexx at The Brickhouse, a new game center at Spangdahlem Air Base.

Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, left, and 1st Lt. Edward Reynado of the 52nd Services Squadron play Super Chexx at The Brickhouse, a new game center at Spangdahlem Air Base. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Two airmen who’d lived at Spangdahlem for more than a year just met over a game of pool ... in the Brickhouse.

“This is my first time here,” said Senior Airman Brian Loston of the 52nd Air Maintenance Squadron. “I like it. It’s nice.”

The Brickhouse is a new game center built by airmen at Spangdahlem. It has big-screen TVs, foosball tables, music and lots of Internet video games. You can buy a cold beer but don’t have to. It’s free to hang out.

The airmen did such a good job that the honchos at U.S. Air Forces in Europe decided similar game centers will be standard next year. That’s the plan, anyway.

“It will be a priority in 2004,” said Mandy Smith-Nethercott, USAFE’s director of marketing and entertainment. “They did a really incredible job outfitting their center.”

Smith-Nethercott said small groups from Europe’s major bases are coming to Spangdahlem on Friday to see how the airmen did it. Then they’re heading back to their bases to come up with their own plans.

The Spangdahlem crew, led by members of Just Airmen, known as JAM, were given the job in January by Col. Stephen Mueller, commander of the 52nd Fighter Wing.

The base received $500,000 for winning the 2003 Commander in Chief’s Installation of Excellence Award. Mueller needed to spend some of the dough.

He said his predecessor, Col. Gregory Ihde, took a walk on base one night and noticed that Spangdahlem was a nice place to take a walk. That was about it.

“[Ihde] literally couldn’t find a single thing except the bowling center that was open after 10 o’clock,” said Mueller, who arrived at Spangdahlem in the summer of 2002. “He passed that on to me, and I did the same kind of assessment.”

In January, Mueller ordered his airmen to build something so they’d “have something to do other than go to the local bar.”

The airmen found an underused building that was just right — a former ballroom located near the dorms and next to the food court, Internet cafe and Cinnabon. They drew up plans.

A few pool tables and a big-screen TV wouldn’t cut it, according to Eddy Mentzer, chief of family member support for the 52nd Services Squadron.

“If it were just that, it’d be full opening day, a few people would be there the next day and the third day it’d be empty,” Mentzer said.

JAM members organized people to clean and paint. They assembled 80 little black chairs and six pool tables. They bolted TVs to the wall and ran wires.

The base bought some Xbox video-game equipment from Microsoft, so now an airman in Spangdahlem can go video-racing against his brother in New York City.

Microsoft liked the idea so much it gave Spangdahlem $30,000 of additional equipment.

Spangdahlem’s entertainment used to be spread around the base — at the officers club, the enlisted club, the bowling alley, a video game here, a pool table there. Now there’s one place that’s the place to go.

“This targets the single airman but everybody’s welcome,” said Airman 1st Class Scott Morin of Vincennes, Ind., and the 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron. “For people who don’t have a family, this introduces them to their military family.”

The Brickhouse is like the ESPNZone and Jillian’s stores in the States. The airmen at Spangdahlem designed their own place. If plans pan out, airmen at other USAFE bases will be asked to do the same next year.

“[Airmen] are going to find something to do,” said Mueller, the base commander. “You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. Young airmen get a pretty small paycheck. A good number don’t have cars.

“This provides something that economically doesn’t put them in a pinch and it gives them the safety net of [being on] base.”

Airman 1st Class Anthony Robertson and Loston were shooting pool together last week. If it weren’t for The Brickhouse, they might have been sitting in their rooms.

“I like the environment,” Loston said. “There’s a lot to do.

“It’s good for the people in the dorms. And it doesn’t revolve around drinking.”

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