Flight test squadron settles in at former alert facility

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
There's new life inside Bldg. 12. 

It isn't every day a dynamic operational flying squadron here moves into a newly-renovated historical building - with ties to the Cold War - and just steps from the Robins flight line.

Its new occupants are members of the 339th Flight Test Squadron, which includes a team of F-15, C-5 and C-130 test pilots, flight crew members, parachute packers and support staff who are charged with the daily task of ensuring these weapon systems are airworthy once again.

This time last year the building - part of the former Strategic Air Command's ground alert program at Robins - was undergoing extensive renovations. 

The squadron moved in at the end of April. 

Although demolition and rebuilding of the building took place over a period of several months, the move was a long-awaited one, with support from across Robins, to include Air Force Reserve Command, the 78th Civil Engineer Group and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.  

Relocating from a wing on the second floor of Bldg. 125, there's more room to spread out in the 45-member squadron's new home. 

"We love the new facility, it's easier to get to and morale seems to be pretty high," said Lt. Col. Dan Badia, 339th FLTS commander and   F-15 test pilot.
Admittedly the only drawback is that it takes a little longer to get to the aircraft - now a short drive across base - that an aircrew must test fly. 

Regardless, one immediate and noticeable benefit is the parking spaces, a short walk from the building's front entrance. 

Just inside visitors are immediately met with a friendly greeting from Candace Jordan, who works in aviation resource management, and ensures a pilot's paperwork is in order prior to a flight. A large screen on the wall shows the day's flying schedule. 

Cheerful bright lighting extends down a long hallway leading to offices for to aircrew members and staff. Just off to the left, two C-5 test pilots discuss details of an upcoming flight. 

"This is a great facility," said Lt. Col. Ron Young with the 413th Flight Test Group, to which the 339th FLTS is assigned. 

"It's a perfect personnel solution," he added, referring to the continuity and experience of the squadron's mission. Many members stay for several years, ensuring stability and knowledge is passed on as new pilots and flight engineers come on board.  

A lower level houses a fitness room, a locker room with restrooms and showers, classrooms and various equipment rooms.

An added benefit with the move centralized is there is now a dedicated area for packing and storing parachutes used by crews aboard the C-5 and C-130. Each parachute can weigh as much as 45 pounds. A climate-controlled room now adjusts to proper humidity levels, which helps parachutes settle so its material can be properly maintained. 

The building itself is an asymmetrical structure, which originally included a briefing room, dining room, kitchen, lounges, administrative offices and sleeping quarters for airmen who participated in exercises in preparation for real-world scenarios.

The former SAC alert compound is of historical significance to Robins; its facilities date back to its construction during the late 1950s in response to the former Soviet Union's build-up of its intercontinental ballistic missile program.  

According to the 78th Air Base Wing History Office, Robins was one of 65 Air Force installations supporting the SAC ground alert program. Both B-52s and KC-135 aircraft were on station. 

"I remember some years ago we discussed keeping as much of the alert center as possible in order to remember those who served on the edge of the Cold War," said Bill Head, Robins historian. "It was a grim job since the best you could hope for was that nothing ever happened. If the alarm went off, you would be flying a strategic mission against Soviet targets with nuclear bombs - with very little hope of ever coming home."

"In short, your job was to hasten Armageddon in hopes the very threat of war would prevent it," he continued. "As it turned out, it worked ... another victory for the Air Force." 

Sitting right next to the facility is Robins' alert apron, a special aircraft parking area known as the "Christmas tree," so named due to its resemblance to a herringbone configuration. 

There were three of these parking areas constructed in Georgia during the 1950s; the other two at Turner Air Force Base in Albany, and Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, which have both since been demolished or modified from their original design. 

While the alert compound is immersed with history, from the 4137th Strategic Wing to the 19th Air Refueling Wing, today's 339th FLTS will continue the Air Force's tradition and mission of keeping our nation safe.