Thursday, February 28, 2013


The F-35 Program continues to grow and will for many years to come.  As the U.S. Military and a number of other countries continue to put their future air power in the hands of this new fifth generation jet fighter; I am very confident the eyes of this country and around the globe will learn more and more about the Panhandle of Northwest Florida, and specifically Fort Walton Beach and Destin.  

Seven F-35Cs should arrive at Eglin in April

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 20:14 PM.
At last, but not least, the Navy should receive its first F-35 jets this spring at Eglin.
A production model of the F-35C, the Navy’s version of the military’s newest and most expensive stealth fighter jet, took to the sky for the first time last Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. Lockheed Martin, the company that makes the planes, is set to deliver that jet and six others to Eglin Air Force Base the first weekend in April.
Their arrival will be a welcome sight for about 70 Navy F-35 pilots, maintainers and support staff at Eglin. Some have been on base for almost two years without a plane to fly or to work on as the arrival was pushed back.
“Everybody’s getting really excited about the opportunity to get their hands on the airplane,” said Navy Cmdr. John Enfield, who heads the Navy’s first joint strike fighter squadron, VFA-101, at Eglin. “Getting the airplane finally is going to be great for morale.”
It’s also going to nearly triple the size of the squadron.
Another 70 or 80 sailors are scheduled to arrive this year. F/A-18 jets should come this summer to fly along with the F-35s, and that will bring another 60 or 70 maintainers, Enfield said.
They all likely will be stationed at Eglin for three-year stints.
Eglin already has a fleet of 22 F-35s for the Marines and the Air Force. Both forces have started putting pilots through the schoolhouse there.
Navy maintainers work on other planes in the fleet. Pilots have been able to go through the Air Force’s academic training program and use their simulator software, but haven’t been able to get into any jets.
The F-35C is unique in that it’s made for landing on aircraft carriers. That means the wingspan is a little wider and the jet is designed to carry more fuel for longer flights. It also is a little slower so it can land in tighter spaces.
Landing on an aircraft carrier takes precision. A traditional runway is about 6,000 feet. On a carrier, the landing space is only 600 feet. Of that space, pilots really only have about a 3-foot by 3-foot window to drop the head of the plane on, Enfield said.
Steel arresting wires, usually about three on a ship, run across the landing space. A tail hook lowers from the bottom of the plane, and the pilot must put the jet down so the hook lands between the second and third wires.
The wire then drags out and stops the plane from going off the carrier into the water.
“The first time you do it its a little disconcerting when you realize you’ve got a 35,000-pound airplane and an inch-and-a-half steel cable and this little tail hook, and it all works together to stop the airplane,” Enfield said. “It’s pretty remarkable, actually.”
Because of the precision required, Navy pilots practice takeoffs and landings more than the other forces.
The ones at Eglin will practice at a relatively remote landing strip at Choctaw Field on the west side of Eglin’s reservation, Enfield said. They will circle for landing at 600 feet, much lower than the 1,600 feet landing pattern for the Air Force.
“You can imagine how loud these things are. If we were flying over Valparaiso at 600 feet, it probably wouldn’t endear our neighbors,” Enfield said.
Working with the Air Force and Marines at Eglin has been invaluable, Enfield said. They’ve been able to share information more easily than if they were at different locations.
For example, when the Air Force and Marines got their planes, there was a big learning curve: how they operate, what breaks, what doesn’t and basic procedures.
“We spent a lot of time writing down those lessons so we don’t have to learn them on our own,” Enfield said. “They did a lot of plowing the field and pulling all the rocks and tree stumps out for us.”
He said it is amazing to be at the forefront as a new aircraft is added to the Navy’s fleet. They are starting from ground zero and then leading the way for future generations, he said.
“I tell (them) ‘your son or daughter is going to come back and tell you if you did a good job or a bad job,' because what we do now is setting the standard for the Navy for the next 30 years,” he said.
With what they already have learned, Enfield said they should be able to take to the skies within a month after the jets arrive.
He said hopes to get a chance to fly one before he leaves for his next post later this year.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at  850-315-4440 or Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.


This growth does even address the growth just outside the City limits of Crestview.  With much of the new developments being built outside the City limits, I can see this number being quite a bit higher.  We are also seeing a number of those Army folks deciding to move their families this year after being around the area and deciding where they want to live.  On the heals of this, you have the ramp up of the F-35 Training Squadron. With growth comes challenges, but I will say, they are challenges our local economy will benefit from.  Thanks to all, who make this area inviting to planners and visitors.  

Crestview rises in UF’s population survey

By BRIAN HUGHES / Crestview News Bulletin
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013 at 17:04 PM.
CRESTVIEW — An influx of neighbors arriving with military reassignments has boosted the population and propelled the city into the University of Florida’s Top 100 growing cities in the state.
Crestview was ranked 100 in 2010. UF’s December report covering 2012 found the city had nudged its way to 97th place.
The university’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, using U.S. census reports, determined that Crestview has 22,742 residents. That’s up from 2010’s population of 20,978 and is a 42 percent leap from 2000’s 14,766 residents.
Mayor David Cadle attributed the recent growth primarily to the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) cantonment south of town, which brought nearly 6,000 soldiers, support staff and their families to the area.
As the city diversifies its businesses, particularly at Bob Sikes Airport and through the city’s Enterprise Zone, more growth can be expected, Cadle said. That will translate into more and better job opportunities and an increased tax base, he said.
“I’m very excited about the continued growth of Crestview, and I think we’re going to see more of that to come as we expand our industrial base,” Cadle said.
Crestview’s growth far outpaced nearby communities on UF’s list. The nearest was Pensacola at No. 51 with 52,202 residents. It saw a 7.7 percent population decline since 2000 and a 0.2 percent growth since 2010.
Panama City was at No. 73 with a population of 35,800. It had a 2.5 percent population decline since 2000 and 0.8 percent increase between 2010 and 2012.
No other city in Okaloosa, Walton or Santa Rosa County made the list.
But Crestview’s growth brings growing pains.
Most noticeably, the evening commute from the south end of the county has increased in recent years. The traffic clogs feeder roads such as P.J. Adams Parkway and John King Road.
The city expanded its water and sewer systems in expectation of the 7th Special Forces’ arrival. However, traffic remains a headache because the county or state controls the roads that need widening the most, officials say.
“The city’s growth creates opportunities but it also creates challenges, and I think we have to be careful not to pursue growth simply for growth’s sake,” said Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles. “We want to make sure we are growing in a way that allows us to develop economically, but also allows us to preserve our unique quality of life.
“One important component of that is infrastructure. If we grow so fast that we can’t maintain the necessary levels of service with our infrastructure, we won’t be a very good place to live and we won’t stay on that (UF) list very long.”
Boyles cited plans for widening P.J. Adams and a P.J. Adams-Antioch Road bypass around Crestview’s southwest corner as examples of the county’s greater focus on the Crestview area.
“I think the job of equitably distributing the limited resources of the county is a challenging one,” Boyles said. “I think having two commissioners from the north end of the county for the first time will help assure our area will get its fair share of those resources.”
Crestview News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes can be reached at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.


A great snap shot of the economic impact the 7th  Special Forces Group is making and will continue to make to this community.  On the heals of this group, we have the ramping up of the F-35 Training Program, which includes about 9 US friendly nations bringing their pilots, maintainers, and supporting cast.  With all this, you have the growth of the vacation community, the annual migration of snowbirds/baby boomers from around North America, as well as, others industries wanting to move their companies to the area.  Why not?  Most people come to visit or move here, and never want to leave.  Can you blame them?  I am a little bias because I am a native.  But, as a retired military officer, I also understand what this community means to our military both active and retired and the defense industry, as well.  I close with this.  AIRBUS.  More to follow.

Special Forces to the rescue
Army has given area a needed economic boost
315-4445 | @LaurenRnwfdn 
 EGLIN AFB — The arrival of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) more than a year ago has been a welcome boost to a slumping local economy. The group, which officially opened its cantonment in October 2011, should pump about $3.2 billion into Okaloosa County’s economy between 2010 and 2016, according to a report from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.  It’s enough to offset the departure of 50 F-15s from the Air Force’s 33rd Fighter Wing in 2009, which will result in a loss of $3.3 billion during the same time period, the report said.  Although the report calls it an almost even trade, the area felt the economic boost when Army families began arriving from Fort Bragg, N.C., last year because the economy was so depressed, said Rod Lewis, director of the Haas Center. Their arrival came on the heels of the housing bubble burst in 2008 and then the loss of the F-15s in 2009.  “It was a double whammy,” Lewis said. After two years of significantly negative population growth in Okaloosa County, the 7th Special Forces Group brought about 6,000 new people, including 2,200 soldiers and their families, to the area. People had been used to operating in the slump, Lewis said. “Then, boom.” The county has felt the impact, especially in Crestview where most of the families settled.  “We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Kay Rasmussen, interim president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. “The community has embraced the families moving into our neighborhoods.”  She described a ripple effect on the local economy as the new families started purchasing and leasing homes and taking advantage of retail.    Also, many of the soldiers’ spouses opened small businesses, primarily in the Crestview area, Rasmussen said. The departure of the F15s, the arrival of the Special Forces Group and then the arrival of the first F-35s at Eglin Air Force Base all were called for in a Base Realignment and Closure Commission report in 2005. The F-35s — the first of which arrived at Eglin in July 2011 — have brought about 1,300 people to the community, said Col. Tony Douglas, vice commander of the Air Force’s 96th Test Wing, which oversees operations at the base.  “It has been a big transition (for Eglin),” Douglas said.  It’s going well, though, he said.  At a sprawling 724 square miles — about the size of Rhode Island — Eglin is the Department of Defense’s largest installation and was ready to absorb the new missions, Douglas said. The community also welcomed the new personnel with open arms.  “It’s been great, not just for TEAM Eglin, but for the local community as well,” he said. “We’ve got more people coming into what is, in my opinion, a very exciting and diverse installation.”  Many people had expectations that the new Army jobs would be low pay and would not offset the loss of the F-15s, which relocated about 2,000 airmen, Lewis said.  They were a bit afraid. The Army’s coming. The Army’s coming,” he said. “But these people are very well-paid. This is not a private first class making $20,000 a year.”The 7th Special Forces soldiers are largely welleducated and earn $70,000 to $90,000 a year.  That’s quite a different (economic) impact when you look at it,” he said.  Lewis said 65 to 75 percent of the families settled in north Okaloosa County. The soldiers deploy regularly and military spouses wanted to live close to each other for support. They also are a tight-knit group, having all been stationed together at Fort Bragg for years. “Crestview got out ahead,” Lewis said. “They were very welcoming and worked to promote Crestview as the place to be.” NMany of the families just didn’t look anywhere else, he said. Lewis said he was somewhat surprised more families didn’t move south because housing was much more affordable closer to the beach and Choctawhatchee Bay than it would have been before the housing market crashed. He said the lingering question about the military’s economic impact remains what level of growth the area will see from the F-35 program. At one point, the Air Force estimated there would be 107 planes at Eglin. Twenty-two jets have arrived so far.  The effects have been positive, but just how much economic benefit will come from the program is yet to be determined, Lewis said. “They are just not here in the numbers we initially thought they would be,” he said.