Base Housing Takes 'Quantum Leap'
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
LACKLAND AFB, Texas, Mar. 6, 2000 Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gilbert Telles Jr., his wife, Rosita, and 5-year-old son, Teddy, have a new home. The airman's highest-ranking leader turned over the key to the family's newly constructed, two- bedroom townhouse here, March 2.
The privatized housing project under construction here "is a quantum leap over what's been available in the past," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said after touring the quarters. The Lackland project is one of DoD's first housing privatization project using the Alternative Authority for Acquisition and Improvement of Military Housing enacted by the Fiscal 1996 National Defense Authorization Act.
A total of 420 units, some single family and some townhouses, are being constructed at Lackland for enlisted families, E-3 to E-7. The Air Force leased 96 acres to Landmark Organization of Austin, Texas, to design, construct, own, operate and manage the rental housing.
Fully-carpeted, two, three, and four bedroom homes feature full-size washer and dryer connections, ceiling fans in the living room and master bedroom and single car garages. When complete the housing project will feature a swimming pool, wading pool, basketball and tennis courts, covered pavilions, playgrounds, hiking and biking trails and a business center.
The first 23 families moved in Feb. 9. All units are scheduled to be complete by February 2001.
Telles, of Ocean Side, Calif., is a ground radio communications systems instructor supervisor assigned to the 837th Training Squadron, Inter-American Air Forces Academy, 37th Training Wing. He told the Pentagon's senior civilian leader his family is "very happy" about their new home.
"You can't beat base housing," Telles said. "You know your comrades are there to take care of your family when you're deployed." He said this was very important to him while he was deployed for a year with the 24th Operations Support Squadron in Soto Cano Air Base, Republic of Honduras.
Air Force Gen. Lloyd W. "Fig" Newton, commander, Air Education and Training Command, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael N. Farage, 37th Training Wing commander, accompanied Cohen during his visit to Lackland. The secretary was in Texas March 2 and 3 to visit Kelly Air Force Base, Lackland and the Army's Fort Hood.
Cohen said the VIP housewarming exemplifies DoD's commitment "to upgrade and increase the quality of life for all of our men and women."
"To have a young family move in to a home of this quality I think gives him a great satisfaction," the secretary said. "His wife will feel very comfortable here when he's forward deployed. He knows he's in a community where his wife and child are enjoying security and safety and good quality of life. That's very important to him."
Housing is a major challenge for the military, Cohen told reporters. "We've got a lot of old stock, and we've got to replace it. We don't have as many dollars we need to replace it ourselves and that's where the private sector comes in."
Partnering with the private sector allows the military to leverage available resources, he said. "We're able to leverage a few dollars into many dollars by virtue of the efficiencies the private sector can bring to the housing construction market."
The public-private partnership at Lackland enabled DoD to leverage $6 million to acquire $42 million worth of housing, he said. "That's the kind of partnership we want to promote."
Along with pay and retirement benefits, housing and health care are two top quality of life factors, Cohen said. "We are going to deal with the housing issue in the military. This is part of it."