Building for the future
By Lt. Col. Troy Stephenson
Originally published in the March-April 2011 edition of Special Warfare
The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, or SWCS, is one of our nation's premier training institutions. Unfortunately, while our training is top-notch, our facilities have not kept pace. It is the intent of the commanding general, Major General Bennet Sacolick, that our campus reflect the same degree of professionalism as our training. To that end, SWCS has undertaken a multimillion-dollar construction plan to overhaul its campus.
The plan, developed under the auspices of the SWCS assistant chief of staff for engineering, is designed to create a university-like campus for the organization that is the university for the warriors of Army Special Operations Forces or ARSOF. SWCS is organized into five distinct campuses that are designed to house like training courses together. The five campuses are: main campus, medical campus, Rowe Training Facility campus, support campus and advanced-skills campus.
The main campus comprises the area bounded by Kennedy Hall, Bryant Hall, Bank Hall and the facilities along Gruber Road and Ardennes Street. Here the focus is on facilities that support command and control, cultural education, language training and barracks for students.
The centerpiece of the new campus will be the Culture and Regional Studies facility. The $57-million facility will support training in language and culture; Civil Affairs, or CA; and Military Information Support Operations, or MISO. The facility will also provide office space, a food court supported by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and displays from the Special Warfare Museum that will serve to enhance education and spotlight the history of ARSOF. Construction on the Culture and Regional Studies facility is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2014, with completion in FY 2016.
Quickly following on the heels of the construction for Culture and Regional Studies will be the headquarters complex for the 1st Special Warfare Training Group. That facility will house the 2nd Battalion, which teaches SF advanced skills; the 3rd Battalion, which teaches CA and MISO qualification courses; and the 4th Battalion, which is home to the student Instructor Operational Detachment Alpha, or IODA. If space allows, the complex will also house the headquarters of the new Intelligence Training Battalion and its associated company headquarters. Construction is slated to begin in FY 2016; however, it may start in FY 2015.
An intelligence-training facility will round out the construction of education and training facilities on the main campus. That facility, complete with a secure, compartmented-intelligence facility, will consolidate the intelligence training classrooms, cadre, command structure and, if necessary because of limited space in the training group headquarters complex, the Intelligence Battalion headquarters. The construction schedule is being refined, but plans call for construction of the $28.8-million facility to begin in FY 2016.
A second round of construction on the main campus will deal with parking and housing. Parking is at a premium on the main campus. The SWCS master plan addresses that issue with the construction of the first parking deck on Fort Bragg. Plans call for the parking deck to be built at the intersection of Gruber and Reilly roads, adjacent to the Culture and Regional Studies facility. While construction of the parking deck is scheduled to begin in FY 2017, a second course of action calls for construction to begin earlier to alleviate the parking impact of the ongoing construction on students, cadre and permanent party.
Over the past several years, SWCS' student load has continued to climb, which has put stress on the school's ability to house its students. A recent construction project increased student dormitory space by 580 beds. In FY 2012, an $18-million facility that will house 180 students is scheduled for construction, followed by a complete remodeling of the two advanced-individual-training barracks in FYs 2011 and 2013.The facilities will be outfitted with the latest digital technology, kitchenettes, and dayrooms equipped with game rooms and televisions.
The last facilities on tap for the main campus are the modern, state-of-the-art Warrior Physical Rehabilitation Facility under the tactical human optimization, rapid rehabilitation and reconditioning initiative, or THOR3, and a new or remodeled museum complex. The physical-rehabilitation facility will not be a typical gymnasium: It will be a complex designed for complete human-performance training, rehabilitation and enhancement. Soldiers will be able to use it for physical training, but they will also have access to a professional staff that will support a complete program of physical fitness, well-being, human performance and rehabilitation.
The Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center is home to all medical training at SWCS. This campus is set to grow with the construction of the Special Operations Combat Medic Skill Sustainment Course facility, which will provide adequate space and a modern training facility to support the joint special-operations community with trained medics and allow the cadre to support the retraining and medic-validation requirements for the fighting force.
Rowe Training Facility at Camp Mackall
Much of the field training for SWCS is conducted at the Rowe Training Facility on Camp Mackall. The Rowe facility has had immense growth over the past eight years, with close to $60 million in expanded military construction. This fiscal year, SWCS will construct $19 million worth of facilities to support the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group; the SWCS Noncommissioned Officer Academy; the Support Battalion's forward-support company; and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape company. The last phase of construction for the RTF campus will address drainage, better parking, water quality and road paving. The training and selection functions for CA and MISO will also receive new facilities to support increasing demands. The task of improving the campus with better emergency support, utilities and AAFES support is ongoing.
The support campus, located on Chicken Road, is designed to house key facilities needed for training and support, command and control, maintenance, parachute rigging, computer simulations and various military-occupational-specialty training venues. Designated Patriot Point, the campus will house an $8.5-million Support Battalion headquarters, rigging shed and motor pool, all slated for construction in FY 2015. The support campus is strategically located to be near the drop zones, training areas and associated campuses that its personnel will support.
In FY 2012, construction will begin on an $11-million communications facility that will house the training of SF communications sergeants (18E). A similar facility will be built adjacent to the 18E facility in FY 2014 to house the training for SF engineer sergeants (18C). The $10.2-million training facility will share a parking area, utilities and access roads with the communications building. Because of the lack of current training facilities for 18Es, Major General Sacolick has made it a priority to push for earlier construction, and SWCS has submitted a congressional unfunded requirements request to consolidate the 18E and 18C projects.
The final project on the support campus is the new $23-million Battle Command Training Center, scheduled for construction in FY 2012. The project, still under design, will provide facilities that will accommodate the latest in digital training, joint tactical operations centers, computer simulations and SOF command-and-control technology. The construction will be environmentally sustainable and compliant, and it is designed to reduce energy requirements, limit greenhouse-gas emissions and take advantage of passive solar energy.
Advanced skills campus
The Advanced Skills Campus, which comprises areas in four states, is already in the midst of a dynamic construction program.
Fort Bragg's Range 37 has two projects under construction: a $14-million administrative, classroom and storage facility and a $1.9-million training annex to support sensitive site exploitation. SWCS is coordinating with the Fort Bragg garrison command for additional range space to provide a 2,000-meter sniper range and additional land for training in shooting skills. At nearby Eureka Springs, $1 million has been spent to remodel an existing facility so that it can be used by students in the 18F Technical Surveillance Course.
The Advanced Military Free-Fall Course is taught in Yuma, Ariz., but students enrolled in the course now travel on temporary duty to Fort Bragg for training in the vertical wind tunnel. Once construction has been completed on the $9.5-million wind tunnel at Yuma, all wind-tunnel training can be consolidated there, saving an estimated $300,000 quarterly. Not yet funded but on the radar is an advanced military freefall training complex that would consolidate training, command and control, rigging, storage and administration into a single, modern facility. The complex will be located next to the airport runway and attached to it by a ramp that would give students and cadre efficient access to aircraft and the runway.
The Special Forces Underwater Operations Course is taught by Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, in Key West, Fla. In recent years, the facility has required a significant amount of rehabilitation because of damage from hurricanes. Construction projects scheduled for the future include visiting-unit quarters to enhance the SF groups' tactical training, improvement to the boat docks, and a facility for watercraft maintenance and storage. The most recent project concept added to the list is the adaptation of a facility adjacent to the underwater operations facility to meet the needs of underwater-operations training.
Key to all of the construction is the ability to shift training as construction gets under way. That need will be met by Bank Hall, which currently serves as the center for the Directorate of Education and Regional Studies. Bank Hall is in need of major renovations, but during the initial construction phase, it will serve as SWCS' "lifeboat."
Construction will be performed in sequences, with a unit moving out of a facility, demolition occurring, new construction accomplished and then the unit moving back the facility. Bank Hall will support the swing-space requirements over the course of this aggressive program. Once all the construction program's requirements for swing-space have been met, Bank Hall will undergo a multimillion dollar remodeling to make way for future growth in training in CA, MISO, and language and culture.
Lieutenant Colonel Troy Stephenson has 24 years of service in the Army Corps of Engineers with assignments as a platoon leader and executive officer in the 3rd Army Cavalry Regiment; company commander, G3 operations, battalion S3, assistant division engineer, engineer battalion commander and special troops battalion commander in the 82nd Airborne Division; deputy area engineer in the Army Corps of Engineers-Alaska; Joint Task Force – 6 counternarcotics project officer; NORDIC/Polish Brigade as a G3 operations officer; and USAJFKSWCS as the staff engineer. He has multiple combat tours in Operations Desert Shield and Storm,Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Joint Endeavor and supported counternarcotics operations along the United States southern border. He is Ranger-qualified, and has earned the Master Parachutist Wings and the Combat Action Badge. Lieutenant Colonel Stephenson has a bachelor's in civil engineering, a master's in environmental engineering and is a licensed professional engineer by the state of Oregon.