OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFNS) --
Dozens of current and former members of Team Offutt recently gathered at Offutt Air Force Base to celebrate the reopening of the runway during a special event there.
The event included a ribbon cutting, flyover, the first few aircraft landing, a ceremony, food and some family entertainment. It provided the Offutt family a chance to welcome their team members home and gave leadership an opportunity to show appreciation for everyone who faced logistical and operational challenges while operating out of Lincoln over the past 18 months, as well as everyone involved in the runway replacement project.
“I want to thank the homeruns of humans that I’ve had the privilege to watch work this project since its inception,” said Col. Kristen Thompson, 55th Wing commander. “The [Project Management Office] team has been the perfect group to lead this effort. They just kept hitting the milestones and plugging away, and it’s been awesome to watch.”
Thompson often refers to the runway replacement as part of a “trifecta of terrible” that has affected the base over the past few years, including rebuilding from the 2019 flood and responding to a pandemic.
“It’s forced us to think outside the box, find creative yet disciplined solutions all while navigating an increased flying hour count and deployment taskings,” Thompson said. “It’s not lost on me the countless hours trying to figure this all out; making the mission happen while taking care of our individual Airmen. This is truly a team effort that tested every single one of us and made us all better.”
Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, flew in on the first Offutt aircraft, a TC-135 piloted by Thompson, to land on the new runway. Kelly also commended everyone for their hard work on rebuilding the runway and for their dedication to duty.
“There was no mission degradation. We had to do a complete runway rebuild on time and on budget and that takes an amazing collateral, cohesive team of problem solvers,” Kelly said. “Offutt AFB’s facilities, Offutt’s geography, the 55th Wing and [U.S. Strategic Command’s] missions, and the Airmen who watch over our nation are more important than ever. Thanks again to this incredible team that locked arms to get to this day. Your efforts do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.”
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and U.S. Rep. Don Bacon from Nebraska attended the celebration. Fischer noted the project’s importance to the base and the U.S.
“Whether it’s conducting the [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] missions, supporting STRATCOM’s mission, or hosting President [George W.] Bush on one of the darkest days in our nation’s history, everyone knows the valuable role that Offutt plays,” Fischer said. “Repairing this runway was essential in supporting that mission.”
Bacon, a former 55th Wing commander, congratulated Team Offutt for its ingenuity.
“I applaud the wing for being able to figure out how to make this work for 18 months while they put this runway together,” Bacon said. “It’s a tremendous milestone. It’s going to make sure the Fightin’ Fifty-Fifth can get its job done, a worldwide mission, as the largest ISR wing in the Air Force.”
Thompson also talked about the airfield’s importance and how it’s changed throughout the base’s history.
“Ninety-eight years ago, this patch of grass and dirt became Offutt Airfield,” Thompson said. “I’d like to think that if 1st Lt. Jarvis Offutt was here today to see this event that he’d be pretty proud. What started off as a 500-yard balloon runway is now 11,703 feet long. It’s truly remarkable. A fitting tribute to a great pilot, patriot and Nebraskan.”
More event photos can be found here.