Team Dover builds auxiliary field

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jacob Morgan
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When Dover Air Force Base, Del.,'s newest airframe arrived April 22, the landing was one of the softest in history. The unique, gentle landing was a stark contrast to the typical clash of tires and concrete often associated with planes touching down. The plane taxied on runway 25 and came to a stop at Liberty Park on the housing side of base.

Although the plane was grounded firmly, the children's imaginations were flying high. As soon as the field became operational, children from around the base rushed into the control tower and plane. Before you could blink an eye, children were climbing walls, swinging across the wings and playing inside the jet engines. Johnny and Timmy became "Big Mac" and "Rain man" as they radioed in on a new poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) pipe system linking the plane to the control tower.

Though this scene is taken from imagination, the playground in which it is set is real. The construction, which was supported by base community members, was completed April 22 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The ribbon cutting featured:

-Gen. Raymond Johns, Air Mobility Command commander

-Col. Mark Camerer, 436th Airlift Wing commander

-Col. Randal Bright, 512th Airlift Wing commander

-Chief Master Sgt. John Evalle, 436 AW command chief

-Tech Sgt. Matthew Novak, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron pavement and equipment craftsman

-Robert Riley, contractor and program manager for the playground

All of these members were present because the opening of this park signifies more than just another playground opening, it signifies all levels coming together.

The base community played the most important role in the building of the Dover Aux Field. From the beginning of design, to the building of the playground, and into future ideas for events, the concept of community has been one of the pillars helping set the foundation for this project.

The original idea came from Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Chris Smith and involved building a plane-model playground that was compliant with the America Disability Act, said Chief Evalle. Chief Smith wanted to use a portion of the Commander in Chief's Installation Excellence Award money to fund the playground.

"It only made sense to culminate 2009-2010, The Year of the Air Force Family, in the building of a playground," said Chief Evalle.

Team Dover took the idea and started looking for designers. A design company that specialized in community-built playgrounds offered to build a special playground just for Dover AFB.

Once the contract to build was set in place, more than 1,600 Team Dover volunteers were led by playground designers, contractors and more than 30 436th Civil Engineer Squadron members to construct the playground.

"We were working hard, and it was cold," said Chief Evalle. "[Volunteers] came back because they believed in being a part of something bigger and longer-lasting than themselves."

Support not only came from Team Dover members, but also from the local community. Food was donated by the United Services Organization Delaware and other local businesses.

The food helped fuel the Team Dover building machine and the final result was finished the day before the ribbon cutting. The finished Dover Aux Field consists of a composite wood generic model plane, a control tower, two swing sets and rubberized ground, which ranges from one inch to six inches in thickness.

After the playground was finished, the project cost was estimated at more than $750,000. However $434,676 was estimated saved from that amount by using volunteer workers versus paid laborers.

"Being able to point to a certain feature of the playground, and watching Airman and their families enjoy it is a very good feeling" said Chief Evalle.

The goal for future events is to make the park the place to be all summer long, said Chief Evalle.

Right now, Team Dover is looking for sponsors to "adopt" the park for each month throughout the spring, summer and fall. Sponsors will help ensure general up-keep as well as the ability to hold events open to the entire community.

The next event, Liberty Park Family Celebration, is scheduled to be held May 6. It will include free food, live music with three to four bands, a dunk-booth with key officials, a campfire and a movie at the end of the night. The events will begin at 3 p.m. and end at 10 p.m.

"I believe building a place for our Airmen and their families to gather and enjoy time together will help foster life-long friendships and help strengthen our community," said Chief Evalle.