AFIMSC completes largest runway construction project in years

  • Published
  • By Mila Cisneros
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center recently completed a $352.6 million, full-depth rebuild of the remote runway at the Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield.

The effort was led by AFIMSC’s Air Force Civil Engineer Center and their contracting execution agent, the 772nd Enterprise Sourcing Squadron in San Antonio. 
Located in the southern Atlantic, the 10,000-foot runway was fully inspected and approved April 29. 

The airfield at Ascension Island plays a significant role in supporting U.S. Space Force aided by the Space Launch Delta 45, at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida; United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and several other military mission requirements, as well as governmental agencies located on the British-owned island. 

“Air and Space Forces missions depend on our ability to provide resilient and fully operational infrastructure to maintain air power capabilities,” said Dr. Tim Sullivan, interim AFCEC built infrastructure executive director and facility engineering directorate chief. “Without a working runway, the mission fails and the Air Force motto of ‘fly, fight and win’ cannot happen.” 

After eight months of work, AFCEC recently completed construction on the western half of the runway, wrapping up the entire investment, jointly funded by the U.S. and British governments. 

“We’ve achieved this significant milestone thanks to our team’s effective leadership, teamwork and extensive collaboration with multiple stakeholders,” Sullivan said.
During the three-year construction effort, AFCEC rotated in four project managers to lead the on-site work, monitor progress and provide timely updates.

“It was a herculean effort that required our presence on the island day and night to navigate through requirements and logistical complexities to meet the critical demands of U.S. and U.K. military operations,” said Col. George Nichols, deputy director at the facility engineering directorate. 

The project’s fourth and final AFCEC project manager, Maj. Adam Coomber, carried the project over the finish line by coordinating demolition work on the western side to rebuild base and subbase layers, and repair asphalt paving before connecting to the eastern side of the runway which was completed in September 2022. (Coverage of the eastern runway)

“Although we learned a great deal from the eastern-side construction, we encountered several challenges caused by the difficult logistics of getting materials this far out, and to foster and ensure teamwork and mutual support thrived within our cross-functional team,” Coomber said. 

The Ascension Island runway construction is the most complex cradle-to-grave execution AFCEC has seen in years, Nichols said, and provided invaluable experience and many lessons learned for the engineer community and industry partners.

“We know how to be more effective and efficient in developing requirements, funding, managing and executing construction contracts,” Nichols said. “We also recognize there is still much to improve on, like ensuring all stakeholders are aligned and mutually supportive of the project’s goals and objectives.  This project was more of a logistical challenge than the actual construction.” 

Ultimately, “AFCEC’s Unity of Effort mantra and routine aligned communication with our U.K. partners and played a pivotal role in delivering on schedule,” he said.
Reflecting on his experience on the island, Coomber said, he’s grateful to the entire team that made this project possible. 

“It wasn’t a single person nor a set of individuals that completed the runway reconstruction, but the collective whole.”