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966th AACS cuts ribbon on new facility

Lt. Col. John Bartoli, 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron commander, gave remarks during a ribbon cutting ceremony March 6 for the squadron’s new facilities. The move from the south side of base to Bldg. 201W, which is closer to the flight line, will save 9,200 man hours in transit time for students and instructors. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

Lt. Col. John Bartoli, 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron commander, gave remarks during a ribbon cutting ceremony March 6 for the squadron’s new facilities. The move from the south side of base to Bldg. 201W, which is closer to the flight line, will save 9,200 man hours in transit time for students and instructors. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- March 6 marked the date when the 966th Airborne Air Control Squadron officially opened the doors to their new squadron facility.

With a ribbon cutting ceremony outside of Bldg. 201W, the Eagles of the 966th AACS now reside close to their Airborne Warning and Control System brethren on the north side of the flight line.

Col. Jay Bickley, 552nd Air Control Wing commander, spoke on the occasion and remarked that "the vision of bringing the 966th AACS back to this side of base" began back in 2008.

Since 1976, the 966th AACS operated out of the Navy Alert facility, detached from the rest of the 552nd Air Control Wing.  The facility was run down and in a condition not conducive to professional combat aviation training.

Maj. David Palmer, lead project coordinator for the 966th AACS, said, "This is a huge leap forward in our ability to produce first-rate operators."

This facility project has been years in the making.  In 2008, the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment created an Area Development Plan for the 552nd ACW campus.

As a part of the ADP, the team proposed a plan to relocate all AWACS functions from south campus to an expanded and consolidated north campus that includes the 966th AACS and all flying training.

The ADP was approved and construction was split into two major phases, first launching on Nov. 5, 2012, with a projected finish of March 19, 2014.

As the flight training unit for AWACS, the 966th AACS is comprised of elite instructors and evaluators in the AWACS community and, combined with the 552nd Training Squadron, they are the "Gateway to AWACS."

Lt. Col. John Bartoli, 966th AACS commander, remarked, "Our squadron is an arsenal.  We build Vikings, Blue Knights, Phoenix and Golden Eagles, who go out and defeat the evil of the world."

A unit with such an important mission was in need of a facility that would match the high standards of professionalism and excellence they set for training and for combat. Through the combined efforts of "Team Tinker," the mission of training the world's best command and control experts for the nation will continue to be better than ever.

Colonel Bickley said, "This was a culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.   It was a phenomenal effort by Team Tinker.  I would like to thank Colonel (Christopher) Azzano, 72nd Air Base Wing commander, and his team, who kept the project on track."

Lt. Col. Kristen Thompson, 966th AACS director of operations, commented on the occasion, saying, "It was a great day for the Eagles, both past and present, to be able to cut the ribbon on our new facility.  The 966th is honored to produce the Airmen that will generate combat disciplined command and control for our nation and this new facility enhances that ability.

"The increased synergy we will now have with the line squadrons because of our unit proximity will only increase our ability to produce these future C2 leaders," Colonel Thompson added. "It was truly a great day in the history of our operations group and for the men and women of 'America's Wing.'  Many thanks to everyone across the base and community that helped make this happen."

Colonel Bartoli said he is thankful to those who helped in the process and expressed to his squadron that, "People not wearing our patch broke down barriers to build this new squadron...and we now have a facility worthy of housing the most elite AWACS instructors in the nation."

Colonel Bartoli went on the say, "This facility will make you better and I am excited to see the squadron excel."

For the Eagles of the 966th AACS, they now have a new nest to call home and may happy skies be forever in their future.