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Duke Field community center sports new vibe

Service with a smile

Ms. Ariane Harris, On the Fly Café cashier, holds trays of food for customers, Oct. 8, 2019, in the newly renovated community center at Duke Field, Florida. The café offers a variety of menu options for breakfast and lunch in a convenient location for Airmen at the Northwest Florida base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dylan M. Gentile)

Breakfast with friends

Master Sgt. Robert Pinard, C-146 crew chief with the 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; enjoys breakfast in the newly renovated community center at Duke Field, Fla. The center was transformed from a old style cafeteria to a modern cafe for offering a wide range of food and beverages with sofas and wi-fi access to support resiliency among Airmen assigned to the Northwest Florida base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dylan M. Gentile)

Cornhole champs

Airman Basic Angeline Ndomaina [left] and Airman BreAnna Sewell, both students in the 919th Special Operations Wing Development and Training Flight, enjoy a game of cornhole in the new Duke Field Community Center Oct. 5, 2019. The community center was renovated over the past year from a cafeteria style set up to a space with cafe style tables, high-backed booths, modular seating and sofas to better meet the needs of the Duke Field community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ms. Emelita Smith)

We proudly brew

Mr. Jared Sheppard, barista at the Drink Spot, pours caramel into coffee for a customer Oct. 9, 2019, at Duke Field, Florida. Sheppard worked at lodging previously and then trained into his position as a barista after the re-opening of the Duke Field Community Center. Customers can get coffee from the We Proudly Serve Starbucks daily from 6 a.m. to noon at the newly renovated community center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dylan M. Gentile)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The Duke Field Community Center, formerly known as “The Outpost,” has a new look and feel.

Duke Field Services hosted the grand re-opening Oct. 5, 2019 to showcase a number of improvements to the facility.

The official ribbon cutting included remarks by Col. Kevin Merrill, 919th Special Operations Wing commander, followed by live entertainment and additional events to include prizes for members and a heritage night celebrating the history of Duke Field.

“We want the space to belong to our people and for them to feel tied to our community through it,” said Ms. Jill Harms, Director of Services for Duke Field.

This celebration offered an opportunity for base officials to highlight a wide range of improvements made to the facility, according to Harms. Upgrades included updating the furniture to create a more versatile space for customers transforming it from a cafeteria style set up and look to a space with café style tables, high-backed booths, modular seating and sofas.

The renovation transformed a facility that largely served as a bar on drill weekends with food and beverage options. The building wasn’t available for use by members and staff on base and didn’t lend itself to helping Airmen stay connected while performing their military duties during the work week. The new additions to the building are intended to change that.

“The first step was removing all the old furniture and getting booths and tables that looked much better,” said Master Sgt. William Steele, Chief of the Wing's Education and Training Office. “Then [our services team] added the new rock wall in the back which gives the entire space a cozy restaurant feel.”

Other improvements include the “On the Fly” restaurant which boasts expanded menu options. The center also began operating a We Proudly Serve Starbucks at the “Drink Spot” while also offering adult beverages and the signature non-alcoholic beverage “BoomERS” and other bar specialties. This is the first time Duke has offered such a wide range of dining options for the base populous, according to Harms.

“We [approached the renovation] in phases to ensure we were doing what was going to meet the needs of the community,” said Harms. “We have received a lot of great feedback along the way which has kept us energized and enthusiastic about the project.”

The goals of this project were all community based, said Harms. The location of the Community Center was ideal with the only two lodging buildings being on either side of its main entrance.

Now guests who are staying on base in lodging are only steps away from a place to relax, get a meal or a cup of coffee while completing tasks on their daily to do list while away from home. It also serves as a great meeting spot for those who want to catch up with friends while performing military duty here.

Harms said she felt it was important to create a communal space that met the needs of service members.

“The impact of these projects is going to be felt for years to come,” said Steele. “Most reservists had nowhere to go during weekends while staying on base. They had to drive 30 minutes to get to the nearest restaurant or entertainment option.”

The success of these projects can be attributed to Jill Harms and her unstoppable drive, said Steele. “She has worked tirelessly to improve morale and welfare for every member of the 919th SOW.”

He believes that not only will this boost morale for years to come, but also contribute to bringing more members into the 919th Special Operations Wing.

“Now that the community center looks more pleasant, we expect members will visit and try our new coffee shop,” said Emelita Smith, 919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron accounting technician. “We now have a place for them to have small meetings, gatherings, and utilize the place as a venue for special events.”

The updated Community Center will be a place for all ages, ranks and the whole community, said Harms.

“It will give everyone a space to grow as Airmen, develop leaders, caffeinate and maybe even have lunch with friends,” she said.