DOVER — Life has been a whirlwind of activity at Dover Air Force Base since Col. Matthew Husemann took command of the 436th Airlift Wing in early June.
There has been Operation Allies Refuge in Afghanistan, which was the largest noncombative civilian evacuation operation airlift by U.S. forces in history, in which C-17 Globemaster crew members from Dover AFB were pressed into around-the-clock service in mid-August.
There were also the dignified transfers to Dover AFB of 13 U.S. service members who were killed in a suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in late August, in which President Joe Biden attended.
Those were just a couple of the many milestone events that Col. Husemann touched on at the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Base briefing (MilCon) breakfast at The Landings on base Monday morning.
“We’ve seen this over and over within the last couple of months where Team Dover came together and executed,” Col. Husemann said. “There’s not an airman on this base that didn’t have a part in this (Afghan civilian evacuation) mission.
“The drawdown brought us to the largest noncombative evacuation in the history of America. Over 124,000 evacuees were brought out from Afghanistan.”
Col. Husemann presented all of the different facets of his State of the Base briefing as seen through the eyes of several different airmen who work at the air base.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who attended the ceremony along with Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, was impressed by the unusual format of the briefing.
“That presentation was one of the most unique and fulfilling presentations I’ve seen,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “Even as I looked up to this slide (on a video screen) and see ‘Through the eyes of Team Dover,’ it really hit me in a very special way.
“I think one of the reasons is because you have major themes. As I look out, I know that Team Dover is broader than just the Air Force base and is truly the chamber, the businesses, and all of the friends and family who are a part of it.”
Looking at some of the things Dover Air Force Base has accomplished over the past year, Col. Husemann said that the base supported $3.2 billion in foreign military sales through its port.
“That’s impressive work,” he said. “Those partnerships are what we’re leaning on for the future so we’re ready for whatever comes our way.”
He added that DAFB’s acceptance of diversity and inclusion policies have helped make the organization even stronger.
“It’s amazing to stand here today and look out and see the power of diverse stock that we are in this room,” said Col. Husemann. “That is what America has over any nation on the globe.
“That brings me to this community, this partnership that is like none other. In this last year the local contracts that we had, brought $6.8 million to Delaware, and $2 million of that was for small businesses, everything from maintenance to medical.”
Giving tribute to teamwork
The State of the Base program on Monday morning began with Brian Stetina, chairman of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce (CDCC), recognizing that the Central Delaware community has been awarded the coveted Abilene Trophy — formally known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award — for a fourth time.
The prestigious recognition is given annually to a civilian community for outstanding support to a nearby Air Mobility Command base.
The CDCC has now received this trophy four times — 1999, 2008, 2015 and 2021.
Following Mr. Stetina’s opening remarks, the Dover Air Force Base Honor Guard presented the colors before the national anthem was played and a prayer read.
A brief video that provided background of Dover Air Force Base’s history, which dates back to 1941, was then shown to the attendees before Col. Husemann let the members of the DAFB leadership team speak on behalf of their respective departments.
Col. Husemann introduced Col. Douglas A. Stouffer, the commander of the 512th Airlift Wing, the Air Force Reserve organization at Dover AFB.
“So, 86% of the 512th are citizen airmen that work a job in the community and then on the weekends they serve in a military uniform,” said Col. Stouffer. “There are over 600 in the (512th) Wing that live in the state of Delaware and then we have an additional 1,000 that live outside the state of Delaware.
“We earn $28 million for job creation and then the economic impact for the base and for the area is $152 million per year. The main reason we are here is to support Col. Husemann and the job of flying C-5s and C-17s. We were honored to be a part of Operation Allies Refuge.”
Col. Chip Hollinger, commander of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at DAFB, as well as Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director Col. Alice Briones, were also introduced.
“This is the perfect opportunity to send appreciation to our congressional, our state, our community and our Team Dover partners,” Col. Hollinger said. “You’re unwavering support allows us to fulfill our nation’s sacred commitment — to honor our fallen with dignity, honor, respect and to care, serve and support their families.”
Looking to a bright future
Driving near the North Gate at Dover AFB or east on Del. 10, it’s easy to see the beginning of one of the big projects that is underway – construction of a massive $47 million hangar that will be large enough to perform maintenance work on a C-5 or C-17 in a weatherproof, fully enclosed area.
“It’s going to be a fuel-cell hangar that will keep our (aircraft) maintainers in a controlled environment and will be give them about 110 more days of work,” Col. Husemann said. “It should be completed in December 2022.
“So, at next year’s ‘State of the Base’ we hope to be announcing when we’re going to go cut the ribbon on this amazing hangar that towers over the skyline.”
The colonel also said that after a delay, construction on the new $48 million Welch Elementary School/Dover Air Base Middle School resumed in October in base housing.
The new building will have more than 105,000 square feet of learning space for about 490 students.
“They are moving forward, and we hope to welcome all kids into a brand-new school that is the cutting edge of education,” said Col. Husemann. “It should be open by the August start of the 2023-24 school year.”
Dover AFB is also moving up the funding list for construction on a dormitory that will bring 144 more new rooms for airmen.
Col. Husemann also shared some exciting news for the Dover community when he announced that Dover Air Force Base will be bringing back the “Thunder Over Dover” open house at the base from May 20-22, 2022.
“So, whether you want to come out and see your favorite airlifter or you want to see the Thunderbirds (Air Force aerial demonstration team) dance in the skies over Dover, come out in May for a great show in a way that we can repay and say, ‘Thank you,’ to this great community,” he said.
Col. Husemann said he is proud of what airmen at Dover AFB has been able to accomplish and is hopeful for the future.
“Over the last few months, with everything that’s happened, it’s been exciting,” he said. “We did the job — and that’s what’s important here at Dover.
“I am excited to be able to be here this morning to be able to see you all. Everybody is this room is like family. We just happen to be the face of Dover.”