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Duke Field breaks ground on aircraft simulator facility

Photo of five people shoveling dirl

Senior leaders from the 492d Special Operations Wing, 919th Special Operations Wing and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers break ground at a ceremony for the non-standard aviation simulator facility construction at Duke Field, Florida, Nov. 9, 2020. The new 8,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility is the first part of a multi-building campus project aimed at increasing the mission capability and training effectiveness of the Special Operations Forces community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles)

Photo of five people standing with shovels next to a dirt mound

Senior leaders from the 492d Special Operations Wing, 919th Special Operations Wing and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepare to break ground at a ceremony for the non-standard aviation simulator facility construction at Duke Field, Florida, Nov. 9, 2020. The new 8,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility is the first part of a multi-building campus project aimed at increasing the mission capability and training effectiveness of the Special Operations Forces community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles)

Photo of 919 SOW commander standing next to a shovel while speaking

Col. Kevin Merrill, 919th Special Operations Wing commander, addresses attendees of the non-standard aviation simulator facility ground breaking ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, Nov. 9, 2020. The new 8,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility is the first part of a multi-building campus project aimed at increasing the mission capability and training effectiveness of the Special Forces community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles)

Photo of 492 SOW commander speaking during a ground breaking ceremony

Col. Andrew Jett, 492d Special Operations Wing commander, addresses attendees at the non-standard aviation simulator facility ground breaking ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, Nov. 9, 2020. The new 8,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility is the first part of a multi-building campus project aimed at increasing the mission capability and training effectiveness of the Special Operations Forces community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles)

Photo of shovels standing in a mound of dirt

Shovels sit in the dirt before a non-standard aviation simulator facility ground breaking ceremony at Duke Field, Florida, Nov. 9, 2020. The new 8,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility is the first part of a multi-building campus project aimed at increasing the mission capability and training effectiveness of the Special Operations Forces community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Members of Air Force Special Operations Command broke ground on a non-standard aviation simulator facility at Duke Field, Florida, Nov. 9, 2020 during a joint ceremony hosted by the 492d and 919th Special Operations Wings.

More than 30 Air Commandos attended the ceremony, which highlighted collaboration on AFSOC’s newest training facility.

“This building is the next step towards creating a campus of integrated excellence at Duke Field,” said Col. Andrew Jett, the 492 SOW commander.

The new 8,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility will be the first part of a multi-building project aimed at increasing the mission capability and training effectiveness of the Special Operations Forces community.

“This facility will go a long way to maximize efficiencies and increase proficiency for our Airmen,” said Col. Kevin Merrill, 919th Special Operations Wing commander. “It will have a significant contribution on our future ability to project and increase combat power.” 

While more than half of the facility will be dedicated to supporting the new simulator, mission planners have set aside space for other functions. Classrooms and administrative areas have been incorporated into the facility’s design and will be utilized by SOF instructors teaching new Air Commandos and debriefing those utilizing the simulator.

“Our newest students will make use of this facility; many of them setting foot in AFSOC for the first time in their careers,” Jett said. “When we combine this facility with other training programs, both here and at Hurlburt, we are providing the best possible situation for these young men and women to be transformed into Air Commandos.”

New construction around the simulator building will extend the utilities and roads that will ultimately be used on the new campus. A joint 524th Special Operations Squadron and 859th SOS combined squadron operations building is scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2021.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the construction that has been touted as one of the most collaborative construction projects on Duke Field.

“This is truly a collaborative effort between all involved,” said Jim Scheer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resident engineer. “All aspects, from funding to the eventual awarding of this project is a testament to the partnership of both the Army and the Air Force.”

Special Operations Command leaders first proposed the simulator facility to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2018. Following Congress approval and funding, the contract was awarded to EMR Construction in 2019.

“Our teams at the 919th SOW and 492 SOW put in a lot of effort to bring this project to fruition and seeing it move forward after several years of planning is really momentous,” said Merrill. “Its construction will reduce the amount of time our Airmen will need to be in the actual jet and in the long run save the tax payers money.”

The aviation simulator will enable non-standard aircrew members to maintain certifications and to train in various tactics at any time or when an aircraft is unavailable for use.

“There is immense pride in the planning, execution and ownership of this vision from start to finish in order to make a difference for those in the SOF community,” said Jett. “Sounds like a SOF aviation crew to me.”