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Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing stand in formation at the assumption of command ceremony for Col. Joseph McFall at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Feb. 5, 2015. For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.

Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing stand in formation at the assumption of command ceremony for Col. Joseph McFall at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Feb. 5, 2015. For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing stand in formation at the assumption of command ceremony for Col. Joseph McFall at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Feb. 5, 2015. For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.

Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing stand in formation at the assumption of command ceremony for Col. Joseph McFall at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Feb. 5, 2015. For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

A row of U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron prepares to taxi on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 13, 2015. For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.

A row of U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron prepares to taxi on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 13, 2015. For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence. (Rusty Frank/U.S. Air Force)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Spangdahlem Air Base must be doing something right.

For the second time in five years, the base was named the Air Force recipient of the prestigious Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence, which recognizes the top U.S. military installations around the world and the people who operate and maintain them.

Spangdahlem and four other awardees announced Tuesday by Defense Secretary Ash Carter will each receive $750,000 for quality-of-life projects, along with a commemorative trophy, flag and a letter of congratulations from the president, officials said.

The other recipients are U.S. Army Garrison Fort Campbell, Ky.; Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif.; Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.; and Defense Supply Center Richmond in Virginia.

Nestled in the rolling hills of southwestern Germany’s rural Eifel region, Spangdahlem nabbed installation excellence in 2011 and in 2005, the most in Air Force history, said Maj. Bryon McGarry, a 52nd Fighter Wing spokesman. The Air Force runner-up this year was Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

“We’re ecstatic,” McGarry said Wednesday. “It confirms what we’ve always known — it’s a special place.

“Everyone thinks Spangdahlem is a sleepy base with not a lot going on. There’s a ton of stuff going on.”

Last year was anything but sleepy at Spangdahlem.

The base hosted a dozen A-10 Thunderbolt II combat aircraft and about 300 airmen a year ago in February as part of the first theater security package to deploy to Europe. Six months later, the base welcomed the first F-22 Raptors to deploy to Europe.

On a routine basis, the base maintains a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons and supports military airlift transiting Europe.

The base is poised to grow. The 352nd Special Operations Wing from RAF Mildenhall is expected to relocate in several years to Spangdahlem, a plan outlined in last year’s European Infrastructure Consolidation.

The base has also undergone a flurry of new construction in recent years, from the opening of a $24 million fitness center two years ago to a new $26 million commissary, set to open later this month.

The prize money from Spangdahlem’s previous installation excellence wins has gone into building running and biking trails, an outdoor covered basketball court and the Air Force’s first movie theater equipped to show 3D, McGarry said.

Base officials are still considering how to spend this year’s award, he said.

The community had some input. A survey went out in March asking personnel for ideas.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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