Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Here it is, almost 6 years later and no privatized housing at Eglin. As a former Military Housing Director, I can tell you this is no surprise. I have briefed a number of folks on this issue and warned them, “this was going to be a long drawn out process”. I have lived this in my professional life in the military and it does not come easy. A number of things have changed and our area will make it hard. First, the military culture does not want to live on base, as per a housing study of military families; Secondly, there will be no mandatory assignment to military housing anymore, so developers would not have a capture audience. This would be hard in our area, where the desirability of living off base is high; and Thirdly, the need for housing units has recently dropped in our area from 2750 housing units to about 960 units. These first few issues will alone make it difficult. Also, like I told many, no military housing will be in Mossyhead, or near Crestview. It just doesn’t make sense. I can bore you with many details, if you would like. I am only a phone call away. Do I tell you, I not only a former Military Housing Director, I am also a former resident of Eglin AFB Base Housing.


More hearings set for privatized AF housing
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443 mmoore@nwfdailynews.com
EGLIN AFB — The Air Force scheduled the next round of public hearings for a proposed housing project that would allow private contractors to build, manage and rent housing to military families on land leased from the Air Force. Public hearings for the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12 at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville and the Fort Walton Beach Municipal Auditorium respectively. In 1996, the DOD authorized the Armed Forces to enter into agreements with private developers selected in a competitive process to own, maintain and operate family housing through 50-year leases. Air Force-wide, more than 40,000 homes were privatized in the program’s first 13 years. Though the need is clearly there, none of Eglin’s housing has been privatized. Larry Chavers, chief of environmental awareness at Eglin, said last January 88 percent of the base’s housing does not meet Air Force standards. That beats the Air Forcewide average of 60 percent of housing that needs to be renovated or replaced. “Most of our units are 30 to 50 years old and made of cinder blocks,” Chavers said. As it works to finalize the location of the new housing, Eglin already has spent $13 million on renovations to existing base housing. Since April 2005, the Air Force has made four attempts to privatize housing at Eglin and Hurlburt. The current initiative was introduced at public hearings last January with seven proposed alternatives (including doing nothing at all). Some of the choices have been eliminated because they would interfere with missions, be unsafe for residents or conflict with future plans for expansion. The eliminated choices include an area near Mossy Head; an area in Crestview; and Live Oak Terrace, an area at Hurlburt Field north of U.S Highway 98. The three current choices are to build family housing in the White Point area, on Eglin Main and in Valparaiso, or in the north Fort Walton Beach area. Past public housing initiatives met opposition with the proposed north Fort Walton Beach area. The area includes 249 acres at Camp Pinchot and 83 acres in the Poquito Bayou area. Grassroots organizations opposed building homes in those areas when the idea was introduced in 2005 and 2006. Eglin’s preferred choice is to build on Eglin Main in the southwest corner of Eglin Main Base adjacent to the “new Plew” housing area. In addition to the comments made at the public hearings, comments received by Feb. 7 will be included in the Environmental Impact Statement and taken under consideration by the Air Force. People wishing to mail comments or obtain further information should send them to: Mike Spaits, Eglin Public Affairs Office
The following is the 2011 Military Housing Allowance for Eglin AFB area for military members with dependents, as well as, last year’s numbers. This allowance is a tax-free entitlement. if you have any questions about this entitlement, please don't hesitate to give me a call

Paygrade 2011 Housing Allowance
E-1 - E-4 $1158.00
E-5 $1218.00
E-6 $1332.00
E-7 $1362.00
E-8 $1392.00
E-9 $1488.00
W-1 $1335.00
W-2 $1374.00
W-3 $1413.00
W-4 $1515.00
W-5 $1635.00
O1E $1368.00
O2E $1407.00
O3E $1533.00
O-1 $1230.00
O-2 $1329.00
O-3 $1410.00
O-4 $1683.00
O-5 $1878.00
O-6 $1899.00
O-7 $1917.00


As you will see below, the new Army Base is completed and plans are being made to move in to the base and many are already looking for homes. The word from the Army is new home construction is the preference. As I have noted many times, this group of military has a much different housing need than our traditional military being assigned to Eglin. Therefore, changes to the style, size, location, must be addressed when providing for this group of military.
Countdown begun for 7th Special Forces arrival
Work on much of Army cantonment done
December 15, 2010 11:41 AM
By John Parrott Crestview News Bulletin Military Reporter
Next year, the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) cantonment west of the Duke Field will be fully manned by its new tenants. The land on which the cantonment, or installation, sits was populated by bear, deer, scrub oak and pine in March 2009 before construction on the cantonment began in earnest. The work is the culmination of four years of planning and a 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) hearing that prompted the pending relocation of the 7th Special Forces from Fort Bragg N.C. to their new home south of Crestview. Much of the work on the one-mile-square administrative complex is complete. “As you can see, all the BRAC mandated buildings are up and, in fact, nearly all of them are in the final stages of completion,” said Joey Walker, site engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “In some cases the only thing we are waiting on is communications hookups and paint, and of course the furniture,” said 96th Test Wing civil engineer George Newman, who is Eglin’s lead man overseeing the construction site. Plans include four 96-bed dormitories for unmarried soldiers, along with amenities such as a mini mall, outlying shops, a dining facility, a chapel and a small medical clinic. The cantonment marks the first time in the 7th Special Forces' 67-year history that facilities have been built to suit their specifications, Lt. Col. Joe Tyron, commander of engineering for the Special Forces, said in a March interview. "We've had a lot of user input from top to bottom," he said. "We're looking at a world-class facility." The 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) includes 2,200 soldiers. The bulk of the soldiers are expected to arrive between April and September of next year. An additional 3,800 family members are expected to accompany them. “The first tenant we expect to arrive is the 3rd battalion,” Walker said. “Afterward the moves go faster and in faster stages. But I expect the 3rd to be here before summer.” It is not just the military that has been busy in advance of the move. The Okaloosa County Water and Sewer department completed in November a 14-month project to install a $5.2 million sewer system consisting of an underground lift station and nearly 17 miles of water pipe. Sewage from the base will be piped south to the county’s new Arbennie Pritchett Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Walton Beach. Officials with Okaloosa County and the city of Crestview were among a group that traveled to Fort Bragg earlier this year to help prepare the solders for their move. “We may not see the soldier that often but we will see his family,” Crestview Mayor David Cadle said. “We will shop with them, eat with them and go to church with them and they will be sending their kids to our schools.” Business leaders are also ramping up for the influx“They will also be buying or renting houses, cars and beach front property,” realtor Brett House said of the members of the 7th SFG (A). House said the Army group and Eglin Air Force Base’s allocation of 59 Joint Strike Fighters will also provide new business opportunities. “It’s no secret the 7th Special Forces and the Joint Strike Fighters are a business magnet,” House said. “In just the past few weeks we’ve had several high dollar investment inquiries, so, it is no wonder they are making statements about how this area is about to explode economically.” Unlike other services where members rotate from base to base every few years, members of the 7th SFG (A) may spend their entire military career in that one location


Okay folks, if you think the Army’s Special Forces Group is going to make an impact to the area, look out. The F-35 Training Squadron is alive and well and moving forward briskly. The permanent party folks (i.e. Instructors, Maintainers, support personnel) are coming in and beginning to set up shop. As you might know, the new By-Pass near the entrance to the gate of the Training Facility shoots straight to Crestview. I expect Senator Gaetz, who was instrumental in getting the money for this project saw the writing on the wall. If you need details on the structure of this group of folks, just give me a call. Some details of this program was released today (see below).

33rd Fighter Wing shows off progress to local officials
Mona Moore
2010-12-14 18:32:20
EGLIN AFB — A sign along Nomad Way that keeps track of the 33rd Fighter Wing’s flight training goals has read “0” for long enough. The Nomads will be flying F-16s by mid-January and training for F-35s on flight simulators in the coming months. The four F-16s will be used as fighter support aircraft. Col. David Hlatky, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, said pilots will sharpen their skills in the F-16s instead of jumping into the F-35s cold turkey. “We ain’t turned a wheel on this side of the base in a while … a lot of new people,” Hlatky said before briefing Okaloosa County leaders Tuesday morning. “So we need to get used to flying as a team and I’d rather do it with an airplane that we know a lot about than an airplane that we’re going to be learning some things about as we get started.” During the gradual build-up of F-35s at the base, the F-16s will serve as chaser airplanes during trainingHlatky said the F-16s will be a short-term solution. He expects they will be used for about a year. Okaloosa officials received a briefing before their tour. Hlatky said the wing has requested that flight training operations be split between Choctaw Field, Duke Field and Eglin Main. The timetable for accepting students and receiving the F-35s has not been determined. The school will train about 1,000 students a year in programs that will take between four and seven months to complete. Since the start of the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Training Center construction, Wing officials have become seasoned tour guides, offering sneak peeks to local and national officials. “Members of our board of commissioners think of themselves as ambassadors to Team Eglin and this will help us inform others in the community,” County Administrator Jim Curry said. Construction is being completed in stages. As the base broke ground on the training center, dining facility, track, dorms and a memorial to the victims of the Khobar Towers, some of the existing buildings were repurposed into temporary classrooms and facilities for fitting pilots for new flight apparatus. One phase of the dorms has been completed. The three-story building’s 144 rooms will house 288 students. Additional dorms are expected to be included in future budgets. The tour included a peak at the Academic Training Center, the Department of Defense’s 26,000-square-foot schoolhouse for future F-35 maintainers and pilots. Hlatky said the Academic Training Center building is the size of six football fields. He compared some of the building’s secured areas to the elaborate opening sequence of the old television show “Get Smart.” The rooms that will house simulators and classified pilot classrooms include a series of security systems, corridors and locked doors. Even doors to stairwells have security codes. The tour also included a look at the dining facility and the 58th Fighter Squadron’s operations building. County Commissioner Bill Roberts said he was impressed by the university campus atmosphere. The training center, dining facility and dorms were designed to provide that atmosphere and were built within walking distance of each other. “I think it’s going to be such a special atmosphere for the guys,” Roberts said. “It’s just going to make it more enjoyable for them.” For all of the progress the 33rd Fighter Wing has made, “the wow factor” actually is the team of JSF training instructors and administrators that has spent months working to prepare the school for future students, according to Hlatky. Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have come together for the same goal. “It’s noses to the ground. It’s meetings at 10 at night. It’s working and traveling Sundays so you can get the only Monday morning appointment that person has available,” Hlatky said. “That’s the wow factor.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


As reported, Okaloosa and Walton Counties continue to remain at the top of the heap when it comes to educating our students and just another reason, why folks flock to our area. Great job by the school districts and wish continued success.

Area high schools see boost in grades
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4440 ktammen@nwfdailynews.com  
Almost every local high school met or exceeded new state standards used to calculate school grades. The Florida Department of Education released the results Tuesday morning that now base school grades on student performance in several areas in all grade levels rather than just FCAT scores. “It’s a very comprehensive, intensive set of criteria that are in place this year,” said Guyla Hendricks, Okaloosa County’s curriculum coordinator. In both Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties, the high schools earned four A grades and two B grades. “I think we knocked it out of the park,” said Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick. “It just validates what we’ve been doing.” The district saw its greatest improvement at Milton High School, which raised its grade from a D to an A. Okaloosa County saw a similar improvement at Choctawhatchee High School. The Fort Walton Beach school went from a C to an A. “I’ve never been prouder of a group of people,” said Choctaw Principal Cindy Gates. She said the improvement was the result of 16 months of hard work by teachers, students, parents and administrators. In addition to encouraging more collaboration between teachers, the school identified students who were struggling and worked with them on an individual basis. “It wasn’t just about the school grade, it was that we wanted to make sure our students were where they needed to be,” Gates said. The new criteria for rating high schools is intended to ensure just that. In addition to FCAT scores, the new system looks at how many students are taking accelerated courses, such as Advanced Placement and dual enrollment; college readiness, based on scores on the SAT or the ACT; and graduation rates. The change is part of a national trend to streamline high school education across the country and at the same time raise the bar for students. “Research has shown … raising the rigor results in a greater opportunity for success for the students,” Hendricks said. Schools in Walton County schools received two A grades, a C grade and a D. Superintendent Carlene Anderson couldn’t be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment. The high school grades come about four months after the release of grades for elementary and middle schools. All three districts performed well in those grade levels as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


If you have been following the many economic factors affecting this area because of the movement of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, F-35 Training Squadron, and other defense related programs. With these factors and those noted below, the future looks very bright for our area. I can tell you, many, and I mean many, new roof tops are coming to our area and the word from the new residents are, Where is my shopping and restaurants? The next question is, who will take the lead and who will be standing by them to take the next step.

WASHINGTON – Nov. 23, 2010 – With more capital available and increased demand for less volatile investments, institutional-level commercial property prices are on an upward trend, according to the CCIM Institute and the Real Estate Research Corporation (RERC). While institutional investors continue to buy or hold commercial real estate, the recommendation to sell has been steadily increasing over the last 12 months.“Though much uncertainty remains in the overall economy, transaction trends for commercial real estate continue to improve,” says Frank Simpson, CCIM, the 2011 president of the CCIM Institute. “The challenge for investors remains finding the right properties at the right price with the best return potential.”CCIM and RERC caution that the commercial real estate market is increasingly divided, with some historically high prices being paid for institutional properties in top-tier markets, while other markets are seeing little or no transaction activity other than distressed property sales.“The good news is the institutional markets are typically a leading indicator … and we expect to see additional activity in more of these markets over time,” says Ken Riggs, CCIM, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Real Estate Research Corporation and the CCIM Institute’s chief real estate economist. “The gap between bid-ask is still too wide in many cases, and until buyers and sellers come closer together, actual transactions will remain sparse.”RERC’s analysis of third quarter transactions shows significantly greater total volume on a 12-month trailing basis, with the hotel sector showing the largest increase at nearly 50 percent. The retail sector volume increased the least at 15 percent. Compared to previous quarters, there was a steady increase in volume of sales greater than $5 million for all property sectors. However, transaction activity of less than $5 million remains flat.In terms of confidence levels of CCIM Institute members, the apartment sector continues to receive the highest investment conditions rating – a 6.0 on a scale of 1 to 10. Apartments easily outscored the industrial sector, which received a rating of 4.5. Investment conditions ratings for the retail and hotel sectors both declined to 3.9, indicating their general weakness, while offices were lowest at 3.8.The apartment and industrial sectors were the only property types whose ratings increased during the third quarter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


They keep coming and coming. This is the latest of a number of new aerospace businesses coming to the Crestview Industrial Airpark. As I have mentioned before, this Airpark is ideal for a number of new businesses and existing businesses, since it sits along the I-10 corridor and Eglin AFB. AS ALWAYS STAY TUNED FOR MORE. This Airport has the potential of bring far more people than the 7th Special Forces to the area, and I am pretty confident it will. The State of Florida has given over $5,000,000 to Okaloosa County for Airport improvements, which has been used make the airport accessible by the largest aircraft in the world.

Aircraft salvage company to land
Qwest Air Parts will disassemble commercial airliners and sell the parts
Florida Freedom Newspapers
CRESTVIEW — The World Airways DC10-30 that landed at Bob Sikes Airport on Wednesday will be stripped and its parts sold. The plane was purchased by Memphis, Tenn.-based Qwest Air Parts Inc., which disassembles retired commercial airliners and sells the parts to airline companies around the world. Qwest is opening a facility at Bob Sikes. It will operate out of a temporary hangar to be built until construction of the company’s permanent hangar is complete, Okaloosa County Airports Director Greg Donovan said. The DC10-30 is the first Qwest airplane that will be disassembled at Bob Sikes. A second DC10-30 is expected to arrive next week. “This is the start of big things for our airport,” Okaloosa County Commission Chairman Wayne Harris said. Every piece of the airplanes, which each seated 350-plus passengers, will be sold. “One company might buy the landing gears and the engines will be sold to another,” Donovan said. All the parts are certified and utilized. Once stripped, the aluminum hull is salvaged for scrap. Qwest employs 22 people at its location in Tennessee. The company initially plans to hire between five and 10 people for the Crestview location. At 8,000 feet, the runway at Bob Sikes is the second longest commercial and industrial runway in the region. Only the new 10,000-foot-long runway in Panama City is longer. Qwest’s startup at Bob Sikes, along with the airport’s runway capability, instrument landing system and thousands of acres of developable property bode well for future expansion, Donovan said. To help facilitate that growth, $11.5 million in improvements will be presented to county commissioners in December. Plans call for widening taxiways up to 75 feet and storm drainage improvements. The Federal Aviation Administration will fund $5 million and the Florida Department of Transportation is expected to kick in another $3 million. The remaining $3.5 million will come from matching funds by the airport. “None of it is taxpayer money,” Donovan said. Work could begin in December or January. Jonathan Dunn, president of Emerald Coast Aviation, Bob Sikes’ fixedbase operator, said Qwest’s arrival “is what Crestview has needed.” “This is going to bring jobs and revenue to Crestview,” Dunn said.

Daily News Staff Writer Kari Barlow contributed to this report.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Again, as I have told many of you. The eyes of the country and world are upon us. I only wish many of you could be with me at some of the meetings I attend, where plans for the future are being discussed. Many of the plans over the last couple of years are now being implemented and some of the more exciting things are yet to be released. With all of the troubles of the country and world, our area is poised to lead the country out of them. Housing starts and sells are flourishing with some of the ordered military making plans to arrive early before increase home prices, CONDO sales are increasing, yes, I said CONDO’s, commercial ventures are being planned to accommodate the BRAC troop movement, military technology is being given commercial application, which will increase jobs, and recent information from the DEP is the Oil Spill did not adversely affect of eco-system. With this being said, the futures bright for our area and we have a responsibility to make our tens of thousands of new residents welcome by providing them quality housing, shopping, and just plan “Southern Hospitality”.

Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 dricketts@nwfdailynews.com  

Vision Airlines’ arrival at Northwest Florida Regional Airport will not only bring more tourists to the area, but will help boost business as well, according to local experts. Vision announced Wednesday that it will start offering twice-weekly flights to and from Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Miami. Paul Hsu, chairman of Hsu Enterprise Group and a member of President Barack Obama’s National Advisor y Council on Minority Business Enterprise, said those were good locations. Both sites open up new business hubs, especially Miami, which is a gateway to South America. “If you look at the (World Trade Organization), the trade between us and the South Americans will definitely increase over the next couple of years,” Hsu said. “The Miami connection is really going to seal that.” Larry Sassano, president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, agreed. “We’ve never had a direct flight to Miami,” Sassano said. “I’ve been here since 1973 and I don’t remember any airport in Northwest Florida having a direct flight to Miami.” David Goetsch is vice president for community relations and workforce development at Northwest Florida State College and a member of Northwest Florida Regional’s strategic planning team. He said the South Florida and upstate New York locations are important hubs for local business people. “There’s not a downside to this airline coming here. It’s all good,” Goetsch said. “It opens up a whole new avenue of access for them,” he added. “It works in both directions, too. That works for people coming here as well as people going from here to wherever they have to go.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010


The speedway from the South Part of the County to the North Part of the County is almost done and will be a major motivator in deciding where to live for not only the incoming Special Forces Group, F-35 Training Squadron, and a number of other folks working in the South Part of the County. Senator Gaetz was instrumental in making this happen with the knowledge that the majority of the folks had a desire to live on the North Part of the County for a number of reason. One of the major reason's of course, is the fact the only available land for the massive growth was on the North Side of the County.

SR 85-123 overpass to be finished 'on-time, if not early' (PHOTOS)
Angel McCurdy
2010-11-09 20:38:28

EGLIN AFB — As motorists continue to drive past the dirt mounds and growing concrete walls at the intersection of State Roads 85 and 123, officials say progress on the flyover is on schedule.
Construction crews have completed support work for the overpass that will connect northbound SR 85 to northbound to SR 123, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Transportation. “Everything is going real well,” said DOT disrict spokesman Tommie Speights. “There have been no major hurdles, and if the weather continues to work on our favor we anticipate the project will be complete by summer 2012.” The flyover ramp will eliminate the need for the traffic signal at the intersection and allow vehicles to move uninterrupted.
The $21.5 million project is being funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. The work now is focused on SR 85 in front of Northwest Florida Regional Airport. Crews are building the entrance and exit drives for the airport and the new frontage road adjacent to northbound SR 85. SR 85 will also be widened to six lanes from General Bond Boulevard north to the airport. Speights said the daytime work has caused no traffic tie-ups and should not pose a problem in the future. “They are working out of the way of traffic,” he said. “They sometimes will have to bring in trucks or supplies, but they haven’t had to stop traffic yet.” Mike Lenga, project administrator with contractor Greenhorne & O’Mara, said the substructure for flyover has been completed. The next phase will include laying asphalt. Traffic will be shifted around the work area after Thanksgiving to allow crews to finish work on the two walls of the bridge.
When completed, the frontage road will carry delivery traffic to the airport’s commercial entrance and exit. Crews also are continuing working on the new ramp and a retention pond east of the airport. “This should relieve congestion at the intersection, making the area safer for drivers,” Speights said. “So far, things are moving along well.” Plans call for shifting southbound traffic on SR 85 onto the new frontage road by January. The change will allow crews to build the overpass on SR 85 southbound. “We’re on track for an on-time, if not early completion,” Lenga said. “Things are looking good.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010


More eyes on Fort Walton Beach and the surrounding area. As I noted in the past, the Economic Development Council, Tourist Development Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and many others, have been instrumental in keeping the Panhandle of Florida in their crosshairs of the country. The markets targeted have been some of the travelers visiting us over the years, as well as, some areas, which have benefitted from the Aerospace growth we have now and more planned in the future. There is much more happening and being planned. STAY TUNED. Great job to all parties involved.

New air carrier could land in Okaloosa
Vision Airlines is expected to announce its plans soon
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 dricketts@nwfdailynews.com

It appears a new low-cost airline is on its way to Northwest Florida, and this one will land in Okaloosa County. Mark Bellinger, executive director of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, announced at a Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday that Vision Airlines will expand its services to Northwest Florida Regional Airport. Bellinger said Vision Airlines was expected to announce that it soon will offer flights to and from Niagara Falls, N.Y., to attract snowbirds. Flights then would be added to other cities in March or April. “I think having a new start-up is going to be extremely exciting,” Bellinger said after the breakfast. “Vision Airlines wants to work very closely with our community. They’ve already met with the lodging industry. They want to do cooperative package plans for overnight lodging that they can offer on their website.” After Bellinger’s announcement, Okaloosa County Airports Director Greg Donovan said it was too soon for him to comment on the airline’s arrival. “We’re in discussions with a new airline and an airline announcement is not ready yet,” Donovan said. “The airline will need to make the announcement. We’ve been working with them and we hope an announcement will be coming soon.” In addition to Niagara Falls, other cities that could be served with direct flights include Atlanta, Louisville, Ky., Huntsville, Ala., Little Rock, Ark., Baton Rouge, La., and Orlando. Bellinger said the TDC will partner with the new airline on advertising. Vision also wants to work with local restaurants and retailers in promoting their businesses and offering discounts to airline passengers, he said. “They just want to work with partners and they want to work with the local community to make this successful,” Bellinger said. “They really are personalizing, I think, the airline experience, and you just don’t see that with the big carriers.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010


In a recent briefing to my NW Florida Military Officer's Association by Wayne Harris, Okaloosa County Commissioner and Executive Director of the Crestview Chamber of Commerce noted below, big things are happening. With the 7th Special Forces Post ahead of schedule and troops being moved early to Crestview or some deciding to buy while now while rates and prices are low, you can see the area changing with restaurants, retail and other commercial popping up all over the place. It should be noted, this is just the group of the Army, we not even become to talk about what is happening with the massive military construction going on right now with the F-35 Training School at Eglin, which will bring approximately the same impact to the area if not more. When investing in the area, you need to understand your customer and I can tell you, our new customers have some unique needs and they will have a lot of money. Example, the Army Special Forces Group get a lot nice bonuses to stay in and when deployed to a hostile area, which they do, their salary during that time is tax free. With some 300 days a year deployed, that is over 75% of their pay tax free. A lot more deposable pay for things like a house, cars, electronics, and other investments. Need to learn more, give me a call.

Harris: Army Special Forces will have huge impact
Some 6,000 people are expected to make the move from Fort Bragg
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 dricketts@nwfdailynews.com   FORT WALTON BEACH — The look of Okaloosa County is changing.

Okaloosa County Commissioner Wayne Harris was the guest speaker Wednesday at the Northwest Florida Military Officer’s Association breakfast at Westwood Retirement Resort in Fort Walton Beach. Harris updated visitors on the latest reports of military growth related to the incoming Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). The 7th Special Forces Group, which includes 2,200 soldiers, is moving to Northwest Florida from Fort Bragg, N.C., as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law. An additional 3,800 family members are expected to accompany them. The Army group will be based just south of Crestview on Eglin Air Force Base land. “The study we did showed the bulk of the folks will be coming to Okaloosa County, about 90 percent, and about 65 percent of those are projected to go to the north end of the county,” Harris said. “Three percent is expected to go to Santa Rosa County and 7 percent to Walton County. “That’s just projections,” Harris added. “That doesn’t mean that’s where they’re going to move. They’re going to go where they want to go. I just talked to a Realtor the other day who said they came in and went right to Pace.” The deadline to complete the move is Sept. 15, 2011. The largest influx of soldiers and family members is expected to arrive next July. Although Northwest Florida is accustomed to having a strong military presence, Harris said things differentiate the Army group from other military personnel in the area. Harris said most 7th Special Forces troops are away from home about 300 days a year. The mortality rate also is much higher than what the area is used to seeing, he added. It will be important for schools to be prepared to help with that situation. Harris also said the incoming troops and their families will have a huge financial impact on Okaloosa County and will help keep tax rates down. “The forecast for growth because of BRAC is about 10,000 jobs by 2015,” Harris said.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


In September they were talking about construction. Today, the construction is moving forward and after speaking with the folks at Greystar, they making plans to be ready for the summer transfer season of the military in May 2011. Stay tuned.

September 08, 2010 8:47 AM
Brian Hughes and Michael Stewart Crestview News Bulletin

After five years of planning, work will soon begin on the 254-unit Spring Creek Apartments in Crestview. Construction is expected to start within 60 days, with an October 2011 completion date, developers said. Some units will be available for rent in May 2011, in advance of the official arrival of the 7th Special Forces and the military unit’s families. The entrance to the development will be located at the site of the former Shamrock Bingo Hall on West James Lee Boulevard, with the apartments to be built north of that location. The project’s partners, Southern Boys Development Group, which includes former Atlanta Braves baseball pitcher John Rocker, Doug Williams, Brian Willis and Chris Moore, have been working on the complex since 2005. “Southern Boys Development Group recognized Crestview as an underserved market in need of additional housing to support the thousands of enlisted and civilian personnel to be employed at Eglin Air Force Base,” a company press release states. Rocker said the complex will also be close to Florida A&M University’s new pharmacy school, to be located in the historical Alatex Building once renovations there are complete. Last Thursday, developers for the long-awaited apartment complex gathered at the entrance site for the official groundbreaking.
“I never thought this day would come,” Rocker said. “We had a lot of obstacles to overcome.”
Plans call for 10 buildings. Residents will have access to a swimming pool, a playground, a walking trail and a clubhouse that will feature a fitness room, business center and gathering space. Southern Boys has hired Charleston, S.C.-based Greystar, the nation’s third largest property management company, with more than 166,000 units in 80 markets, to run the complex. Rocker described the development as “upscale.” Greystar Senior Director Tracy Bowers said some of the one, two and three-bedroom units will be reserved for lower income renters. Bowers does not predict that the downturn in the economy will affect their ability to rent the units. Leasing will coincide with an upturn foreseen for the local real estate economy, she said. “If it had come out of the ground two years ago, it would’ve been much harder,” Bowers said. “This is a great time to be trying to lease-up ahead of the curve,” Greystar’s Jeff Kaloupek said. The project has had some setbacks, including the July 2008 pullout of a major equity partner, which forced the partners to start over from scratch. “You stuck with it all the way,” Crestview Mayor David Cadle said at the groundbreaking. “That’s the kind of entrepreneur we want in the city of Crestview.” Okaloosa County Commissioner Wayne Harris agreed. “I have to credit John and the Southern Boys for staying with this,” Harris said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Over the last few years, I noted a local business leader and past Chairman of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, being a leader in the Defense Industry. This would be Dr. Paul Hsu. Not only was he successful in building a multi-million dollar company in Crestview, he was also selected by the President Bush to the his Export Council. He has been instrumental in bringing attention to this area for the aerospace industry and is building the new Technology Park at the Crestview Airport, which will be opening in the coming months and creating more jobs. Now, his efforts have caught the of the present Administration for the purpose of minority business enterprise. I will tell you this, Dr. Hsu efforts will bring more attention to our area, and specifically the Crestview Airpark. Again, another iniatitive, which will bring more growth to our area. I hope you see the writing on the wall.

Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 dricketts@nwfdailynews.com  

FORTWALTONBEACH — As a registered Republican, local entrepreneur Paul Hsu did not expect the Obama administration to ask him to join a national advisory board. However, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke on Monday appointed Hsu , t h e chairman of the green technology firm Hsu Enterprise Group, to the new National Advisory Council on Minority Business Enterprise. “It’s quite an honor,” Hsu said. “This is the first time they reached over the party lines. Everyone knows I’m a Republican, but it really is indeed an honor to serve with him on something that touches my heart, the eco - nomic recovery and job creation.” Hsu is a native of Taiwan who came to the United States after graduating from college in Taipei, Taiwan. He was a software engineer who co-founded MTI in 1984 and sold the company 20 years later to MTC. Hsu was appointed to a two-year term on the advisory council. The g r o u p w i l l d e v e l o p strategies and policies to position minorityowned firms to compete in the global economy. Hsu said he plans to concentrate on world trade and ways to grow manufacturing in the United States. In the past 10 years, the country has lost 3 million manufacturing jobs, or about 20 percent of the nation’s entire manufacturing force, he said. Hsu wants to bring those jobs back and not lose them to developing countries. “I think minority business development is at the very front burner under the Obama administration,” Hsu said. “This definitely gets his attention. I think the few meetings will take place in the White House. I don’t know if he will participate, but I think he will. He wants to know how we will develop the minority business. This is really, really, really to his heart, and I know that. “But to me, either minority or nonminority, small business is small business,” Hsu added. “If we create jobs, it doesn’t matter if it’s a white business or a minority business.” Hsu previously served on President George W. Bush’s President’s Export Council. He represented the president on several trips to China.

Monday, October 18, 2010

30-Year Mortgage Rates Plumb New Depths

Just when you didn't think they couldn't go any lower, they drop some more. If this is not the time to buy with prices low and mortgage rates low, I don't know when it will be. In our area, the supply of quality homes is dropping fast and thousands of military folks being ordered here in the upcoming months, it only makes basic economic sense, home prices will rise. So if you are on the fence, you better jump NOW.

Freddie Mac reports that the average interest on 30-year fixed mortgages slipped to an all-time low, for the third consecutive week, to 4.19 percent. At the same time, 15-year fixed-rate loans and the five-year adjustable-mortgage rate both also hit record lows. Rates on the former were 3.62 percent, while the latter averaged just 3.47 percent.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Nathan Becker (10/15/10)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 12, 2010
Author: Ken Wright
Realtor RE/MAX Southern Realty
Vice President of Northwest Florida Military Officer’s Association
Phone: 850-582-6442
Email: kmwrightjr@embarqmail.com
The below is information compiled by the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County (http://www.florida-edc.org/is_okaloosa.htm), which will help illustrate the need for housing in Okaloosa County. As a native to this area, retired military officer, former Military Housing Director for the Southeast United States, and Vice President of the Northwest Florida Military Officer’s Association, I have the privilege of being a part of and have an understanding of the needs associated with the military regarding the movements of military units and the needs associated with the moves.
The basics of this challenge are a very high demand and low supply of quality housing for the movement of troops associated with this move. Factors which have placed a major strain on housing needs have been:
1) The financial crisis, which put builders and developers in a precarious situation to find finding for construction
2) The mass destruction of inadequate on-base housing
3) Defense Contractors moving to the area to follow the Defense Contract needs
4) The normal migration of folks to Florida.
It has not been underscored enough. The BRAC 2005 decision triggered a number of other initiatives to move several other military programs to our area and programs associated with the Aerospace Industry. As the past Chairman of the Economic Development Council noted, with the military missions in our area which include training, operational, and testing, we are primed to be the Silicone Valley of the East Coast. As you will read on, you will begin to see the recipe for a major economic up turn in our area.
The University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research FACTOIDS (Florida Defense Industry Economic Impact Analysis in January 2008).
· About 35% of Northwest Florida regional output is driven by defense spending;
o 18% for NE Florida
o 5% for Central Florida
o 3% for South Florida.
· Average earnings per military job in Florida are at 175% of average earnings across all Florida jobs.
· In 2005, average military earnings per job were $68,540 compared to an average of $39,990 for all Florida jobs.
· In Okaloosa County defense-related spending accounts for 73% of economic activity.

Eglin Air Force Base, the Air Armament Center (AAC), belongs to the Air Force Materiel Command and is responsible for development, acquisition, testing, deployment and sustainment of all air-delivered weapons. Eglin's range supports training activities for numerous operational military units, military schools, and various federal agencies. These training activities are conducted on an individual, group, or joint operations basis. Eglin AFB supports Army and Navy units. 62 major organizations resided at Eglin.
Eglin AFB occupies 463,128 acres across Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton Counties.
Eglin AFB, the largest military installation in the Department of Defense
· More than 724 square miles of land area
· More than 134,000 square miles of airspace
· More than 123,000 square miles of water ranges in the Gulf of Mexico
2009 Installation Statistics
Buildings 2,239
Buildings Square Feet 12,105,930
Main Base Acres 11,270
Complete Acreage 463,067
Active Duty Military 7,928
Civilians 5,435
Eglin's technically sophisticated facilities and its massive land-water test range complex make it an invaluable asset to the Air Force mission and to the economic development of Okaloosa's community.
In FY 07 Eglin AFB
Created 12,900 non-active duty military jobs in the local community
Had a $1.5B impact on the economic area
Had 15,125 military family members associated
Supported approximately 41,000 retired military members in the local area
Eglin AFB is a leader in Expeditionary Combat Support with the 2nd largest deployment tasking in the Air Force and the largest deployment commitment in the Air Force Materiel Command. Eglin has the Air Force’s largest transportation function in the Continental United States. Eglin also hosts the only Ground Combat Training capability in the Air Force Materiel Commend – 1 of 4 in the Air Force.
In addition to the military testing, training, development and research that Eglin specializes in, Eglin is also a successful environmental conservation steward for their undeveloped land reservation. Recreational activities are permitted on the reservation where the successes of their environmental care can be seen in plant and animal life.
BRAC ImpactAs a result of the 2005 BRAC Commission, the US Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) will move from Ft. Bragg, NC to Eglin AFB. The influx of personnel will be in 2011 with approximately 2,200 soldiers and 3,867 dependents. The location of the new Army post will be in the north county area South of Interstate 10, West of Duke Field.
Also coming in to Eglin AFB is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Initial Training Center (ITC).
Arriving in 2010:
1) 59 aircraft
2) 1,563 personnel
3) 1,714 dependents will begin arriving in 2010.
Anticipated BRAC Realignment Impacts:(These figures may change)
· To occur between FY09 and FY15
· MILCON to exceed $735M
· 3,763 additional military personnel
· 87% Enlisted
· 12% Officers
· 1% Civilians
· 5,581 dependents
A total increase in population of 9,344 is expected by 2016.
Hurlburt Field is the headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the Air Force component of U.S. Special Operations Command; and the 1st Special Operations Wing, AFSOC's oldest and largest unit. AFSOC's mission is to provide Air Force special operations forces for worldwide deployment in the conduct of the War on Terrorism in order to disrupt, defeat, and destroy terrorist networks that threaten the United States, its citizens, and interests worldwide. Responsibilities are to provide aerospace surface interface, agile combat support, combat aviation advisory operations, information warfare, personnel recovery and rescue operations, precision aerospace fires, psychological operations, specialized aerospace mobility and specialized refueling to unified commands.
Hurlburt Field is located in the southern portion of the Eglin reservation in Okaloosa County occupying 6,634 acres.

2008 Installation Statistics
Buildings 644
Buildings Square Feet 5.2 Million
Acreage 6,634
Active Duty 8,206
Active Duty Dependents 10,782
Civilians 1,316
BRAC ImpactAs a result of the 2005 BRAC Commission, Hurlburt Field relocated approximately 1,000 personnel to Cannon AFB.
For additional BRAC information visit the Defense Support Initiative page.
Duke Field is home to the 919th Special Operations Wing, the only special operations unit in the Air Force Reserve. The 919th SOW reports to the Air Force Reserve Command's Tenth Air Force in peacetime, and becomes part of AFSOC at Hurlburt Field if mobilized for conflict.
Duke Field is located within the northern section of Eglin's reservation and employs 1,200 reservists and 300 full-time civil service personnel.
Duke's total economic impact in the community is estimated at $51 million annually.
Okaloosa supports three military installations, Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, and Duke Field, collectively on the largest base in the world; Eglin Air Force Base. These three installations are known as the Eglin Complex.
The overall defense economic impact in Okaloosa County is over $6,000,000,000 annually!
The State of Florida's economic impact is $52 billion and is anticipated to exceed $59 billion by 2010.
In 2008, Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field engaged in their housing privatization initiative which will demolish 2,257 housing units with a planned rebuild of only 960. This demolishing of this housing has begun and will put an approximately 1297 military families into the community housing market.
This industrial airpark is the nucleolus for the Okaloosa-Crestview Enterprise Zone; created to facilitate economic revitalization.
360 acres in the Northern section of Okaloosa County, three miles Northeast of the City of Crestview, near Interstate 10. Bob Sikes Airport offers general aviation, private use and is located within an Enterprise Zone.

Site Size Available:
As needed. There are primes sites and large parcels available for development within the airport boundaries.

Cleared area of 290 acres with an elevation range from 160-240 feet. Bob Sikes Airport offers a 8,000 foot runway, with a 2,000 foot planned expansion. The airpark offers complete airport facilities capable of handling large airliners, taxiways to and from surrounding properties, and adjacent land for aviation related companies.

Okaloosa County

Current Tenants:
BAE Systems, Bay State Cable Ties, Copy Products Company, Custom Production, Inc., EJM Aerospace Services Inc., Emerald Coast Aviation, Gulf Coast Industrial Machine, Ideal Aviation, Inc., L-3 Communications/Crestview Aerospace, National Electronics Warranty (NEW), Prime Source Electrical & Manufacturing, Satellites Unlimited Inc., Summit Park, Sunshine Aero Industries, Inc.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Okay folks. This is some of the news, I spoke about the last few weeks coming to Crestview. This is just another step of many being taken, which has placed the Crestview Industrial Airpark at the forefront of the Aerospace Industry. With the arrival of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, which will train Navy, Air Force, and Marines of the U.S., and over 12 NATO Countries and the Isrealis, this area and specifically Crestview Airpark, will place Crestview in the cross hairs for aerospace growth. The capabilities of this Airport, which is adjacent to the World's Largest Air Forces Base, will lend itself to a number of programs and projects to benefit the military and civilian, alike. I hope you are getting the picture.

October 12, 2010 5:50 PM
Brian Hughes
When a Volga-Dnepr airlines Antonov An-124 landed at Crestview’s Bob Sikes Airport around 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, it did much more than drop off a hush-hush cargo for one of the airport’s defense contractor tenants. It demonstrated to a world aviation audience the local airport’s abilities to accommodate the world’s biggest aircraft. “What this means to our community is access to the world,” Okaloosa County Airports Director Bob Donovan said. “Once you get on the radar with international operators, that’s proof of our abilities here in Crestview.” The Russian-made and Russian-crewed four-engine cargo jet, described by airport officials as the world’s third-largest aircraft, was in town only about 13 hours before departing shortly after sunrise Friday morning. The mission had been in the planning stage for more than eight months.
“What it does is prove the viability of having such a long runway and a good airfield,” Donovan said. The massive An-124, supported on the ground by 10 sets of dual wheels in its center landing gear and two sets of two wheels each forward, is surpassed in size only by the Airbus A380 and the Antonov’s larger sister, the six-engine An-224. The plane that landed at Crestview is one of 10 An-124’s owned by Volga-Dnepr’s cargo arm. Its cavernous cargo bay is so huge it can easily carry other aircraft. “They have hauled trains in those,” said Brad Hall, Emerald Coast Aviation’s vice president and director of maintenance. “It’s a very neat airplane.”
While the airport’s taxiways proved a little tight for such a large plane, Emerald Coast, the airport’s fixed-base operator, was on hand to help the plane into position at L3 Crestview Aerospace’s parking strip. Driving a 53,000 - pound aircraft “tug,” Hall neatly guided the An-124 off the runway Thursday night and into position for take-off Friday morning. The airport is addressing the taxiway’s tight radiuses, Donovan said. “We’re working very hard with the FAA and the FDOT to get the funding necessary to rebuild some of the taxiways so the aircraft can taxi on its own power,” Donovan said. “But the runway can accommodate the world’s largest aircraft.” After the An-124 took off Friday morning, Hall, Emerald Coast lead mechanic Bob Kilbourne and airframe and power plant mechanic Mace Livingston joined their boss, Emerald Coast Aviation President Jonathan Dunn, for celebratory sausage biscuits and coffee back at their office. Livingston, who had assisted Hall in the tug, compared the scale of the Antonov to the planes he typically services. “After you’ve towed the third-largest aircraft in the world at 6:30 in the morning, working on a Cessna 150 is going to be a let-down,” joked Livingston. “It’s pretty much the tiniest aircraft out here.” Hall said pushing and pulling the cargo jet with the tiny tug was an adrenaline rush. “It was pretty awesome!” he said. “It was enormous. To tow something and move something that weighs that much was neat. I hope we get to do it again.”
Dunn said the nearly nine months of planning for the Antonov’s visit was worth it. “Well, nine months, no sleep for a week, lost 20 pounds — I’ll try to do it again next week,” he laughed. “They’re moving one from Houston to Ghana next week and want to do a fuel stop in Birmingham. I’m trying to persuade them to come here.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


As noted in a recent Gulf Power Economic Symposium, the future is bright for Northwest Florida's economy. Hopefully, you have been following the news, which I have been noting to understand the reason why. This news just helps to reaffirm what I have been telling you. So, what do we do from here. Press on the banks and investors to open the door to lending and meet the needs of ten's of thousands of new residents and businesses coming to our area. All I can tell you, you haven't seen nothing yet.

‘The future is here’
NWF will rebound from recession faster than rest of country, economist says
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 dricketts@nwfdailynews.com  

SANDESTIN — While Northwest Florida felt the effects of the economic recession sooner than most of the country, the region is poised to have one of the strongest recoveries. Gulf Power’s Economic Symposium returned for its 14th year Tuesday. It attracted speakers from around the state and nation to discuss the best way Northwest Florida can rebound from the recession and the BP oil spill. One of the returning speakers was Rick Harper, director of the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development at the University of West Florida. He said the three major industries in the region — the military, tourism and health care — are all strong and poised to grow. “We’ve always grown faster than the rest of the nation,” Harper said. “The only reason we sometimes think of ourselves as slower in this area is because Florida is usually faster than we are. But in Northwest Florida, projections are we’re going to reverse that and become faster than the rest of the country, certainly the rest of the Southeast.” H a r p e r ’ s a s s e s s - ment that the region will rebound from the recession quicker than other parts of Florida is backed up by other data. Woods & Poole Economics Inc., a Washington, D.C.,-based firm that specializes in long-term county economic and demographic projections, recently completed its forecast for the rest of the year and highlighted Northwest Florida’s potential. Harper said the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Joint Strike Fighter program coming to Eglin Air Force Base will have immediate and long-term benefits. He said the region hit its economic high after Hurricane Ivan before other parts of the country, but started to drop much sooner than other areas. Home prices did drop more substantially in Florida than in other parts of the United States, but that has made Northwest Florida more price competitive with the rest of the country than it had been during the housing boom, Harper said. The good news is that the area also is coming out of the recession a little bit sooner, he said. “The future is here in Northwest Florida,” Harper said.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Eglin's futures is bright. The front page headline of today's paper. A fact, which I have been letting my reader's know, for quite some time. If you haven't been following the specifics, go back to my previous Blog entries of the past and they are outlined. It does still amaze me, I am still hearing from bankers and others say, "I don't know if the we will get all this growth being talked about, the government might change its mind". WELL WAKE UP!!! It is here and ahead of schedule. We have been lucky with no hurricanes, which has allowed the Prime Contractor to get ahead of schedule on the Army Base. Again, I will underscore it, "MILITARY BUDGET CUTS MAKE EGLIN ATTRACTIVE". Why??? Future warfare is, RAPID DEPLOYMENT and SMART AND ADVANCE WEAPONS. Guess what. EGLIN IS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL. In conclusion, INVESTORS AND BANKERS, GET OUT OF YOUR OFFICE'S AND SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND THIS AREA. NOT WHAT YOU READ FROM THE NATIONAL NEWS PAPERS. Great success will be when Bankers, Investors, Developers, and Builders come together to meet this unprecident challenge which is upon us NOW!!!!

Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443 mmoore@nwfdailynews.com

EGLIN AFB — In a wartime era of budget cuts and closures, Eglin remains one of the busiest bases in the Department of Defense. The objective for the next decade is to keep it that way. With tenants that include the 46th Test Wing, the Air Force Special Operations Command and the country’s only special operations reserve unit, Eglin Air Force Base has played a vital role in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. “I think that they’re right in the middle of what the DOD’s looking for,” Okaloosa County Commissioner Bill Roberts said. Roberts is the commission’s liaison for the joint Land Use Study, BRAC, Defense Support Initiative and Economic Development Council. “Look at Hurlburt and Special Operations out of there, and that’s the way we’re fighting wars today,” Roberts said.

The BRAC impact:
The outcome of the 2006 Base Realignment and Closure favored Eglin. The base will lead the way in fifth-generation aircraft and joint integration of the forces with the BRAC additions.
The 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) will be Eglin’s second Army tenant. The Marines, Navy and Air Force also are working together in the Joint Strike Fighter Training School. “I’m excited about the future of Eglin Air Force Base,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. “Not only was Eglin chosen as the site for the Department of Defense’s new joint training center for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, they also just received a Special Operations forces unit from Fort Bragg. The addition of these new missions will have a lasting and positive impact on the local community.” The immediate impact is a boost in home sales and more students in local classrooms. By 2020, an additional 10,690 people will call Santa Rosa, Walton or Okaloosa County home as a result of BRAC, according to a 2007 study by the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development at the University of Wet Florida. Jim Breitenfeld, a member of the Economic Development Council’s Defense Support Initiative, said Army families have been choosing to settle farther away from the 7th Special Forces’ cantonment west of Duke Field. Conversations with local realtors and developers have found an unexpected trend among those homebuyers. “Some of the initial thoughts were that … when they came, all of them were just going to plop down and settle into Crestview,” Breitenfeld said. “They ’re gonna spread out across the region. We’ve gotten reports that home sales to members of the 7th are really being spread … all the way from Navarre into Walton County.” The impact will be greater than a few new neighbors. The new residents will introduce a new dynamic to the area. Breitenfeld gave health care as an example. Because of the constant deployments and dangerous missions of the Special Forces, local hospitals will have to provide a different level of service to injured soldiers. “The hospitals and medical centers are working very closely with Eglin and that’ll be a benefit to the community, in a sense. It will probably raise the level of traumatic injury health care in the area,” Breitenfeld said. Breitenfeld is optimistic about the future, but recognizes some areas that may have a greater impact on the area than the population boom expected in the next decade. His three greatest concerns are the shrinking DoD budget, limited air space and the possibility of drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

A shrinking budget:
Rick Harper, director of the Haas center, said there are legitimate worries about the defense budget. “I think that all parts of the federal budget are going to be under pressure in the next several years because the budget deficit has to be reduced, which means that national defense expenditures are going to be under pressure,” Harper said. Jeff Fanto, growth project coordinator for Okaloosa County, said recent studies have shown that the county’s dependence on the military has been too great. He said he has seen figures as high as 73 percent of the workforce being tied to military. Recent studies have said Northwest Florida must seek ways to diversify its economy. How that can be done remains to be seen. “It doesn’t appear as though there’s anything on the immediate horizon. But I think that you certainly have to frame all of your thinking on what that budget might do over the next several years,” Breitenfeld said. “I think if the Air Force, in particular, lowered its level of support for new weapon development, then that could have an effect on Eglin.”

Close ties:
Okaloosa County’s success is closely tied to the success of Eglin. “Speaking as an economist, Eglin is the most important economic driver in Northwest Florida. The procurement spending that flows through the base every year is very large, relative to other parts of the economy,” Harper said. Eglin has been one of the top employers in the area since the 1930s. In 2005, the DoD spent more than $2.24 billion in Okaloosa County. The largest portion was from contracted services such as research and development, construction and maintenance. Another $627 million was spent on salaries and wages, according to the 2007 Haas study. About 27 percent of the state’s federal military and civilian personnel live in Okaloosa County, the Haas study said. Nearly 21,000 people (14 percent of the county’s workforce) works for the DoD. Breitenfeld said the number of people was not the most important factor. “You can have a lot of numbers at a military base, numbers of people and numbers of missions, but the economic impact in the community really is dependant upon the type of mission it is,” he said. “The high-tech research technical labor force that we have at Eglin really is what fuels the economic impact. It would be a different look if it were simply a training base.” The base’s technical fields generate the greatest income for the area, and Breitenfeld stressed the importance of fostering and supporting those fields. When new missions are proposed for Eglin, they cannot be at the expense of the high-paying research and development, acquisitions, testing and evaluation positions. The impact creeps into all facets of the community. The area’s quality of life is affected. Brietenheld noted education. “There are a number of reasons why the school systems in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton County traditionally are in the top three or four or five in the state. And a lot of that is the military,” Breitenfeld said. “You’ve got parents who come in with high expectations (and) you’ve got parents that are very involved in the school system that help set standards very high.”

Working together
Crowded air space has become an issue in the last decade as the area’s commercial, civilian and military aircraft have increased. One of the deciding factors in the number of F-35s Eglin will bed down was air space. “I think there’s a good handle on that. Eglin has led an initiative over the last couple of years to try to sort through that, and we expect to see some of the recommendations as early as December,” Breitenfeld said. The third area that would have an impact on the future is the training range over the gulf. Breitenfeld called it a national asset.
The oil spill disrupted Eglin’s testing and evaluation. The base could not test munitions with boats skimming oil. But some good may have come of the spill: It will influence the likelihood of new leases and opening up new areas for drilling. Breitenfeld said drilling and the military are not necessarily incompatible. As long as the drilling takes into account the military’s needs, both parties can work around restrictions. “The bottom line is we think the future of Eglin is very strong,” Breitenfeld said. “There are a few areas that I think people need to have some concern about.”

Friday, October 1, 2010


Two Walmarts in the Panhandle of Florida (Niceville and Santa Rosa Beach) being built and expected to be completed within a year. Do you think the one of the largest Companies in the world might know something here? Yes, they do!!! Don't be paralyzed by the national media, the news is not all bad. The Panhandle is on the eyes of the country for a number of reasons. People still need to buy food, clothing, and a number of other things. People are moving here because of jobs, by choice or directed (i.e. military).

Waiting for Walmart
Ground could be broken soon for the store in South Walton
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4432 amccurdy@nwfdailynews.com  

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Ground should be broken any day on the Walmart in South Walton County. The last of the fees have been paid and permits have been issued, said Buddy Wright, a county planner. He said the next phase will deal with the construction crews hired for the project. “The ball’s in their court,” Wright said. “They could start digging dirt tomorrow if they wanted to.” The new Walmart will be part of the larger Topsail West development near the intersection of U.S. Highway 98 and West Hewett Road. Construction of the 78,290-square-foot Walmart will be Phase I of the development. The St. Joe Co. has designated 116 acres for Topsail West. The development is proposed to include more than 308,000 square feet of retail space, 5,000 square feet of office space, 190 senior-living units, 110 assisted-living units and 310 multi-family units, according to previous reports. Topsail West is expected to be built in phases. The final phase is not expected to be completed until 2020. Michael Smith, project superintendent for TD Farrell Construction, said a surveyor must visit the property before construction begins. A trailer for the work crews also must be placed on the land, he said. “Everything is preliminary,” Smith said. “We’re plotting coordinates and getting ready to begin.” Smith said he expects construction will take less than eight months, based on his previous work for Walmart. “For now, we’re just working on getting the project started and we’ll see what happens,” Smith said.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Okay my fellow BLOG readers. I thought you might want to read what the Executive Director of the Crestview Chamber might have to say. First, let me tell you, he is not only, the Executive Director of the Chamber, he is an Okaloosa County Commissioner, Retired Air Forces Service Member, and a good friend. I also have him scheduled to be my Guest Speaker at the November 2010 Military Officer's Association. I am formally inviting my fellow business men and women to attend this meeting in Fort Walton Beach. If interested, please give me a call. Enough said about that. As you will see, excitement is in the air about the 7th Special Forces Group and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; however bigger things will happen because of the incoming university and the Crestview Industrial Airpark. So read on, and if you are in the position to development, build, or invest, you might want to get serious about Crestview NOW. The timing want get any better.


"I’ve told you in the past and most of you know about the 7th Special Forces Group and their numbers, 2200-2500 military and corresponding families.The last time we talked about the Joint Strike Fighters the official number had not been determined and I am sure you all know now that 59 will most certainly be making their home here at Eglin and the other 48 with go to Luke AFB in Arizona. Yea, I know not what we expected but my Daddy always taught me that “A half of loaf is always better than no loaf when you’re hungry” so let’s be happy we are getting the bulk of the contingent. Even with that the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action was very good to us so we all need to be thankful. Next and just as important is the official transfer of the deed for Alatex building downtown to FAMU. This, again I believe, will have a more significant impact on the downtown area than anything else that can be achieved, even more in my estimation, than the BRAC. This will create strong desires by the business world to open their shops, boutiques, restaurants etc., on or in and around Main Street. In fact, the UWF’s Haas Center for Business Development estimates a $100 million dollar impact to Crestview in the first 5 years and more after that. A point of interest to us all is the fact that during a down economy two communities that do well are Military communities and College/University towns, folks we will have both. Additionally, as FAMU gets up and running and start educating upper level Pharmacists, Nurses and Dental students, mark my words, you’ll probably start seeing other colleges and universities vying to get a place at the table of Crestview. Wow! Next month maybe I will be able to fill you in on some of the other great things that are on our plate over the next few years…stay tuned and if you want to really know what’s going on in our home call Beverly White at the Chamber and talk to her about joining our Chamber if you are not already."

Friday, September 24, 2010


What this means. Duke Field, which is about 5 minutes from Crestview will see a good portion of the training of the new F-35 Training program. I would expect that training will be for the F-35, which is designed with vertical take off (Marine Version) and they will use this field because of some increases in noise associated with this type of take off. A good reason for this, is because Duke Field is further away from the general population and the noise will not affect them. What this also means, with the training being conducted at this location, you will probably see the support staff at this location make Crestview their home. So not only will you have the Army's 7th Special Forces Group at the door steps of Crestview, you will have a good part of the F-35 program. FOOD FOR THOUGHT!!!

Eglin, Duke Field finalists for primary F-35 activities
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443 | mmoore@nwfdailynews.com  

EGLIN AFB — The Air Force has narrowed down the primary airfields for the Joint Strike Fighter to Eglin Main and Duke Field. In a draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released this week, the Air Force said the F-35 jets will bed down, be maintained, launched and recovered at one of the two fields. A final decision will be made after public hearings next month and released in the final Environmental Impact Statement. “I’m pleased that we’ve reached this stage in the process and am confident the critical analysis from this effort will ensure the best possible decision for F-35 operations at Eglin,” Col. Sal Nodjomian, commander of the 96th Air Base Wing, said in an e-mailed statement. “I also look forward to hearing what the community thinks throughout the public comment period.” The public will have 45 days to review and comment on the SEIS draft. The Air Force unveiled 18 options for the F-35 operations during a series of scoping meetings in August 2009. Many of the alternatives involved building more runways at a cost that was not included in original Base Realignment and Closure funding. The Air Force added a 19th option after the scoping meetings. The suggestion was to use Duke Field and Choctaw Field as auxiliary fields and build one new runway at Eglin for the primary airfield. The list was narrowed down to five options at Duke Field and two alternatives at Eglin Main. Eglin Main’s alternatives call for using Duke and Choctaw fields as auxiliary fields. One option has an additional runway being built at Eglin. The Air Force’s preferred option is to use Eglin Main as the primary airfield and Duke and Choctaw as auxiliary fields. No changes would be made to the runways. Valparaiso Mayor Bruce Arnold said Thursday that he had not seen the draft but would be given a copy that night at a meeting. “I have no comment until I’ve seen the document. I have no comment because I’ve seen nothing,” Arnold said. Copies of the draft SEIS are available for review and download at Eglin’s website and at nwfdailynews.com  . Printed copies can be found at the following libraries after today: Robert L. F. Sikes P u b l i c L i b r a r y i n Crestview; Niceville Public Library; Fort Walton Beach Library; Navarre Public Library; Valparaiso Library; and the Monroe County Library in Monroeville, Ala. The comment period runs from today through Nov. 8. Public hearings are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12, 13 and 14. The times and places have not been decided. For more information about the environmental impact analysis, contact Mike Spaits, 96th ABW/ PAV, Eglin AFB, FL 32542, The phone number is 882-2836.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


As reported by the AP, new home construction jumped nationwide. That is good news. If you think that is good news, keep an eye on the new home sales in our area. It is going to skyrocket. I am seeing pre-sales, spec-homes, and builder's looking for good locations for new home construction. If you have been following my BLOG with the updates of the growth of our area, it is not surprising this is happening NOW. The mistake some have been making is looking at trends and absorptions and they are missing the boat. Throw that out the window. Apparently they have no understanding of military unit moves and the insights of the military culture. The government has ORDERED thousands of military people to our area now and in the immediate future, with plans to bring more government jobs (military and civilian) to our area. WHY, it is cost advantageous and the right thing to do. With a need to reduce the military budget, streamlining a number of processes are needed and Eglin and the surrounding military bases are going to the the benefactor of this streamling.

Home construction jumps 10.5% in August
WASHINGTON (AP) – Sept. 21, 2010 – Home construction increased last month and applications for building permits also grew. But the gains were driven mainly by apartment and condominium construction, not the much larger single-family homes sector.

Construction of new homes and apartments rose 10.5 percent in August from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 598,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That’s the highest level since April.

Pulling the figures up was a 32 percent monthly increase in the condominium and apartment market, a small portion of the total market. Single-family homes, which represent about 80 percent of the market, grew more than 4 percent.

Housing starts are up 25 percent from their bottom in April 2009, but are still down 74 percent from their peak in January 2006.

Building permit applications, a sign of future activity, grew by nearly 2 percent to an annual rate of 569,000.

Builders are struggling with weak demand for new homes caused by high unemployment and a glut of foreclosed homes on the market. They had benefited in the spring from federal tax credits, but those expired in April.

Lennar Corp., a major builder based in Miami, said Monday the number of buyers signing agreements to purchase its homes fell 15 percent from a year ago in the three months ended August 31.

“It’s been a tough summer,” said Stuart Miller, Lennar’s chief executive, on a conference call with investors Monday. “As we’ve gone into September, we’re seeing a little bit of pickup in our traffic, but that shouldn’t be cause to heave a sigh of relief at this point.”

Construction activity rose 34 percent in the West and was up 22 percent in the Midwest and 7 percent in the South. However, construction fell by 24 percent in the Northeast.

On Monday, the National Association of Home Builders said its monthly index of builders’ sentiment was unchanged in September at 13. The index has now been at the lowest level since March 2009 for two straight months.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This below is some recent news, which was reported by local news agency, on the future of Tyndall AFB and Panama City, FL. I am pretty confident, you will hear some more encouraging news on the economic growth of this area from Panama City to Mobile, AL on the I-10 corridor.

WJHG TV - September 15, 2010

Bay County's leaders have been a bit apprehensive for almost two years, since the Air Force announced it was retiring its F-15 jet fleet. Tyndall Air Force Base was slated to lose 48 of the aircraft, along with 800-jobs in support of that mission. Those jobs pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

Then, several weeks ago, the Air Force announced it is assigning an operational squadron of F-22 fighters at Tyndall, to replace the F-15 mission.

With all of the changes, Tyndall commanders felt it was time to brief local politicians and community leaders about what Bay County can expect now and in the future.

As 325th Fighter Wing Commander, Brigadier General James Browne explained it, the future looks very bright.

"We are very excited to have the announcement that there will be a follow up operational F-22 unit that will show up at Tyndall. With that we anticipate approximately 650 jobs. Compare that to the over 800 jobs that we lose because of the F-15's leaving. There is a little bit of a deficit, however there are many unknowns as we see a new operational unit show up on the base. So it may in fact be a zero loss if not a net gain."

Tyndall Air Force Base economic impact on Bay County is between $600-and-700 million dollars a year.


Okay people, one of the biggest sports stories of all times comes to Eglin AFB. The Associated Press reports, I did say, Associated Press, has reported and it is being published around the world, the Miami Heat will have their training camp at Eglin AFB. If you don't think this will bring new eyes on this area, I don't know what will. I can pretty much assure you, there will be daily shows and stories noting the players time and the surrounding area during their stay. I have said, many times, Northwest Florida is on the map in a big way.

Road trip: Miami Heat taking their first training camp with James, Wade, Bosh to Eglin AFB
7:40 PM CDT, September 15, 2010

MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James will take his talents to a different beach when the Miami Heat open camp.

He'll get to South Beach eventually. But first — Fort Walton Beach.

The Miami Heat announced Wednesday night that they'll hold their first camp with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida's Panhandle from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3. Miami has typically held training camp at its home arena, but in an effort to limit distractions going into this much-hyped season, the Heat wanted a different locale.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wanted the camp there after getting presented with the idea by team trainer Jay Sabol. Once military officials agreed, the deal was struck.

"This is a terrific opportunity for our team," Spoelstra said. "The base will provide the ideal setting for us to focus on basketball and building camaraderie with limited distractions. It also presents us a unique and fantastic opportunity to spend time with the Airmen who defend our freedom. I anticipate our team and each of us individually will benefit tremendously from being around this environment."

Eglin officials said Wednesday night they could not recall another professional sports team holding part of its training camp at the base, which is about 650 miles away from Miami. Practices will take place at Hurlburt Field's Aderholt Gymnasium. The Heat said they would be involved in several other on-base events.

"We at Hurlburt Field have a proud tradition of excellence, sacrifice and commitment. Our world-class Airmen and facilities guarantee we can answer the call — any time, any place," said Col. Michael Plehn, 1st Special Operations Wing commander. "We know the Miami Heat share this same commitment to excellence. This is why we're pleased to support their request to use our facilities."

James famously said he would "take my talents to South Beach" when announcing his decision to join the Heat on July 8, and there will be plenty of time for that to happen. The Heat will return to South Florida two days before opening the preseason at home against Detroit on Oct. 5.

"The Miami Heat is extremely humbled to train in an environment where service, sacrifice and discipline are the norm," Heat president Pat Riley said. "We know our players will appreciate being immersed in that kind of environment, and supporting the men and women who defend our freedom everyday."

The Heat have many ties to military efforts, including their "HomeStrong" initiative where soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are honored before every home game. Riley also has arranged Christmas parties for soldiers and their families in recent years, and former Heat first-round draft pick Tim James joined the U.S. Army in 2008 and was sent to Iraq shortly thereafter.

The Heat plan to practice twice daily during camp, although that's subject to change.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Panama City International Airport has triggered one of the nation's top Economic Growth Potential. The door has been opened and a number of folks from around the Globe is finding the Panhandle of Florida. What does this mean? Our area is not a secret anymore. READ ON!!!!

Panama City Metro Ranked #1 for Economic Growth Potential
Business Facilities Magazine Article from the July / August 2010 issue

We recognize that growth potential is not determined by size; in fact, there are a number of “overgrown” metropolises in the U.S. that rapidly are being outpaced by mid-sized contenders. Also, some of the most dramatic growth possibilities can be found in smaller communities. So we’ve divided our Top 10 Metros for Economic Growth Potential ranking into two sub-categories, giving large cities and their smaller brethren a chance to shine side by side.

In the small population sub-category, Panama City, FL remains front and center on our growth radar. As we detailed in our June cover feature [Editor’s Location Picks], it would be hard to find a better example of the seemingly overnight transformation of a region than the current activity on the Florida panhandle.

One of the nation’s largest economic development initiatives is taking shape amidst the piney trees and pristine beaches in Northwest Florida near Panama City. What makes the 75,000-acre West Bay development unique is not just a huge public-private effort that is spearheaded by the area’s largest property owner, The St. Joe Co. and has brought together state, regional and local agencies: West Bay is the only economic development project in the nation that comes with its own brand-new international airport.

The $318-million Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport began operations with the first landing by Southwest Airlines on May 23 after a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Charlie Crist. It is the first greenfield commercial service airport to be built in the U.S. in more than 15 years, replacing the existing Panama City-Bay County International Airport. The new airport boasts a 10,000-foot runway built on approximately 1,300 acres of a 4,000- acre site in the West Bay development. The land for the airport was donated by St. Joe Co. The 125,000-square-foot passenger terminal at NW Beaches features seven gates, two restaurants, two retail shops and six car-rental counters. Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines will offer daily service to Atlanta, Memphis, Orlando, Cincinnati, Houston, Baltimore and Nashville.

The West Bay Sector Plan initially calls for a business center and a regional employment center, divided into more than two dozen parcels ranging from 7 to 44 acres each. The business and retail sites are surrounded by more than 40,000 acres that have been set aside by the developers for environmental preservation. St. Joe’s new headquarters will be located within Phase I of the West Bay Sector Plan development near the entrance of the new international airport. The new offices will provide the company with a location central to its numerous residential communities and commercial properties under development.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I have noted a number of times, the future of the BRAC Realignment was not only going to be about the Army’s 7th Special Forces or the F-35 Training program bringing thousands of new positions to the area; it was going to be the growth of a number of defense contractors, as well. Most people have not read the BRAC decision in whole and are unaware of the military programs, which were going to be moved to the area also. This did not get the same exposure because everybody focused on what the government was responsible of moving to the area, which was the people. These programs will also provide growth in new positions and has the potential to provide many more personnel than the combination of the movement of the Army’s 7th Special Forces and F-35 Training Program and the cost of new hires and moves will be by the Defense Contractors. As you can see below, Dr. Paul Hsu, a successful defense contractor in his own right and a past Presidential Appointee for President Bush on Economic Development, has desires to expand the Crestview Airpark even more. In a recent interview, he noted, what Edwards AFB did for the silicone valley on the West Coast, you can expect the same from its sister base, Eglin AFB, will do for the East Coast. Therefore, you can sit back and watch, or you can get in the game. Again, stay tuned, more will follow shortly.

Crestview's Sunshine Aero expanding operations
Brian Hughes | brianh@crestviewbulletin.com
2010-09-04 12:26:42

With a fleet of 10 specially modified aircraft, 30 employees and a salary payroll of more than $1 million, Bob Keller’s Sunshine Aero, a fixture at Crestview’s Bob Sikes Airport for more than 30 years, is expanding its operations.
Keller’s SAI Flight Test, the evolution of Sunshine Aero, is the first tenant at the new Crestview Technology Airpark, a joint effort between businessman Dr. Paul Hsu, Keller, the county, airport and state officials, and the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce. The airpark is located at the north end of the airport’s runway and had its groundbreaking in March.
Last week, Keller briefed the chamber’s Airport Committee on progress. The most visible sign is the construction of SAI’s new hangar and office complex. Built to Keller’ specifications, his company will lease the new building and adjacent taxiways from the county upon completion.
SAI Flight Test performs modifications of aircraft for optimum installation under severe time constraints, Keller explained in his presentation.
“Our customers usually need it yesterday,” Keller said, explaining the “severe time constraints” caveat. Then he jokingly added, “If they have a couple of years, they go to the Air Force.”
The company’s flight-test aircraft have been extensively modified. Seat tracks in the planes accept equipment in racks capable of withstanding 9 G-forces without flying loose from their fittings. The planes’ airframes have been strengthened to support external equipment, such as instrumentation pods and an advanced flying naval torpedo developed by defense manufacturer Raytheon.
SAI has an FAA-certified avionics laboratory in which the company modifies both civilian and military aircraft. The company holds a Department of Defense security clearance, and networks with other area defense companies.
“There is a lot of capability in this area and we talk to each other quite often,” Keller said.
Keller told the packed conference room at the Chamber of Commerce’s office, “We have been doing this for many years. A lot of what we do I can't talk about.”
One of the projects he can discuss publicly is advanced radar mapping with the ALIRT system, a capability his company successfully proved earlier this year. Sunshine Aero flew about 150 hours of mapping missions in Haiti following the devastating earthquake earlier this year.
The company’s equipment peered through thick jungles, clouds, smoke and other obstructions to identify roadways and paths rescue workers could use to get supplies to victims of the disaster.
County airport officials are extremely pleased with partnership that led to the creation of the technology airpark.
“When I see you taking off, that's what makes me happy,” said Okaloosa County Airports project manager Tracy Stage to Keller. “We want to do those things to make you and our other tenants succeed.”
The new 24,000 square feet of hangar that SAI will lease is a first step in the airpark development, and is well under way. It should be ready for occupancy by November, Keller said, and will also house his company’s offices, avionics lab and workshops.
“It’s going to be a nice-looking facility and certainly what we need,” Keller said.
The company has a Crestview staff 18. He has a further 12 Sunshine Aero staff members working at its smaller refueling facility at the Florala, Ala., airport. Last year’s total sales surpassed $6.3 million.
“And we’re still growing,” Keller said proudly. “We try to hide what we do out there because it’s a lot of fun.”

Friday, September 3, 2010


Well folks, some have had their eyes on the Army 7th Special Forces Group coming, you might want to start getting ready for some 2,000 sailors, Marines, and airman, expected to support the training wing. On top of that, you can expect about 13 NATO countries bringing their support staffs for their new F-35 pilots for training. Do you see the picture here? Not only will you have permanent positions here, you will see a flood of new pilots here on a temporary basis. Which means, transient lodging and rentals will be in high demand. Look closely to the below article, CONSTRUCTION COMPLETED BY JANUARY 2011.

F-35 joint training wing gets ready for deliveries
August 24, 2010

The first Joint Strike Fighter to enter the U.S. military’s first F-35 joint service training wing is scheduled to arrive in November at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
By 2014, the 33rd Fighter Wing is expected to reach full strength with more than 2,000 sailors, Marines and airmen and a minimum of 59 F-35s.
The U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will each have a training squadron under the 33rd. Fifteen F-35Cs will be assigned to the Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 101 “Grim Reapers,” which stands up in 2013; 24 F-35As will fall under the Air Force’s 58th Fighter Squadron “Mighty Gorillas,” which stood up in October; and the Marines will have 20 F-35B assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 “Warlords,” which stood up April 2.

“We’re laying a template for how the free world will fly fighters for the next 35 to 50 years,” Col. David Hlatky, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, said during a media briefing at Eglin.
Navy Capt. Mike Saunders, deputy commander of the 33rd Operations Group, said the wing set high goals for its training regimen.
“Our hope is that this will be the model for training,” Saunders said.
In July, instructors performed a dry run to “work out the kinks,” said Marine Col. Arthur Tomassetti, the 33rd’s vice commander. The first student pilots will come from other planes and might not recognize the electronic classrooms designed for the 33rd. Rather than a seabag full of textbooks, students will take home a laptop, he said.
“Whether they are pilot students or maintenance students, they are going to start in electronic classrooms,” Tomassetti said, standing in a classroom with joysticks and 42-inch flat screens at each desk.
A basic JSF simulator is at the 33rd. Retired Air Force Maj. Greg Wilder, now a contracted instructor, said the wing has room to install 10 full-mission simulators, but plans to buy six to eight. Each Mission Rehearsal Trainer, built by Lockheed Martin with partners that include Rockwell Collins, will cost about $12.5 million and feature 24 projectors with touch screens and flight controls.
Each pilot will have to fly at least five complete missions inside a Mission Rehearsal Trainer before piloting a JSF, said Maj. Eric Smith, an A-10 and F-16 pilot assigned to the 58th Mighty Gorillas.
The technological advancements built into the F-35 will make it easier to train new students, especially compared with the AV-8B Harrier, said Tomassetti, who started his career flying Harriers.
Construction has started on what 33rd Fighter Wing leaders describe as “the campus,” which includes a dormitory, dining facility and Academic Training Center that will be big enough to fit six football fields.
Construction is scheduled to end in January, Hlatky said.
As the 33rd grows, so will the relationships between the pilots and maintainers from different services and different JSF partner countries. The first foreign students will be British pilots scheduled to arrive in 2011, Tomassetti said.
When student pilots start arriving straight from pilot school, he said the joint training will introduce them early to the Defense Department’s “joint approach.”