Keesler Air Force base busy building, modernizing

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - 2010 will be a year of transition for Keesler Air Force Base. The commander of the 81st training wing talked about the future of the Biloxi base at a chamber of commerce breakfast Wednesday.

General Ian Dickinson said Keesler is focused on improving its facilities and its mission.

"Our focus now is on the future. Our focus is on modernization. Our focus is on how can we improve the training mission we have here at Keesler Air Force base to prepare airmen, marines, sailors, soldiers, for the missions that they will take on," the commander told his audience.

General Dickinson said base construction projects are everywhere. They include a $61 million BX project, the $23 million Bay Breeze event center and the largest housing construction project in Air Force history.

"The nearly billion dollars of modernization and infrastructure funding, military construction that's gone into Keesler, will about wrap up its run in the calendar year of 2010," said General Dickinson.

Projects also include additions to and a modernization of Keesler Medical Center.

"We've moved our central energy plant up out of the basement. Our back up power up above ground and above the flood plain," the commander said.

In 2008, Keesler provided an estimated $1.8 billion in total economic impact to the state of Mississippi through its jobs, contracts, services and retiree pensions.

Computer training will soon be expanded. Keesler has been chosen as "cyber space" training headquarters.

"To be the platform at which people get that kind of training is a key and weighty responsibility we hold here at Keesler Air Force base," said the wing commander.

Finally, the gates are getting an upgrade. New barriers will help prevent what happened recently at an Air Force base in Utah, where someone tried to crash the gate.

"And these kinds of barriers are going to prevent that kind of incident from happening," he said.

The commander said Keesler's success would not be possible without community support.

"No installation in our Department of Defense really succeeds without a partnership with their local communities," said General Dickinson.

Considering land space, Keesler is one of the smallest bases in the Air Force. The densely populated base is only 2.6 square miles, including a six thousand foot runway.

The "Keesler family" numbers 85,000 which includes active duty, civilian workers, retirees and their family members.

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