RAF Fairford preparing to support growing population

  • Published
  • By By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

Personnel from the RAF Fairford Defence Infrastructure Organisation Regional Delivery, VIVO, 420th Air Base Squadron Civil Engineer team, 422d Civil Engineer Squadron and Housing Office have been working diligently to renovate military family housing (MFH) units at RAF Fairford to support an influx of Airmen as part of a wing restructure.

“We’re nearing completion on the first few houses that we can offer to our Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Stover, 420th ABS and 420th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron commander.

The 501st Combat Support Wing headquarters are moving from RAF Alconbury to RAF Fairford this summer. Approximately 30 personnel and their families from the 501st CSW command team and Wing Staff Agency  are projected to move to the Fairford area starting this summer.

“It will be a long-term process, with the first step striving to appropriately staff Fairford,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Hinsey, 501st CSW commander’s action group superintendent. “It is essential to strike the right balance between the quality of life for our individuals and our mission needs.”

RAF Fairford MFH was temporarily utilized by RAF Brize Norton personnel and families from 2011-2021, until the units were returned to U.S. Air Force control.

“Part of the return of the houses was originally initiated because RAF Mildenhall was going to close down, and that was going to bring over 900 military to Fairford,” said Stover. “Then, in November 2020, that decision was reversed.”

The population of the local Cotswolds’ region has grown significantly in recent years because of the teleworking boom in the British economy. For military members, this has created a challenge in finding affordable housing within reasonable distance of the base. Military members who were stationed at RAF Fairford commuted from further away where housing was available. 

By refurbishing the available MFH units on base, families can more easily and affordably transition to living in the U.K. Military members with changing shift schedules can also live in closer proximity to the base, reducing the need to commute to work through narrow back roads in unfavorable driving conditions.

Personnel from the aforementioned organizations have been involved with coordination and repairs to update each home in preparation for the new tenants, but each renovation takes time.

“World-wide supply chains are difficult due to COVID problems,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Groom, 420th Air Base Squadron director of operations. “We can only get parts so fast, but everything had to be replaced, the outdated infrastructure – electrical boards and the boilers are a few things.”

Brize Norton families returned the MFH units in excellent condition, but as in any facility renovation there are multiple improvements that must be accomplished.

“We’ve got to bring in the white goods,” said Alex Wilkieson, 422d CES installation management chief. “There are no washers, dryers, freezers, and dishwashers in here at the moment. We’re checking the heating systems, painting, cleaning carpets, painting fences...making them look as esthetically pleasing as possible with the budget that we have.”

Ian Murray, 422d CES housing manager, and Hubert Braganza, 422d CES deputy housing manager, have been assisting inbound personnel with inprocessing and moving to RAF Fairford.

“At the moment everybody is living off base,” said Murray. “We help them to find houses off base through local letting agents, we find out what their rent caps are to find a suitable house, we give them tips on what to look for, and inspect the houses where possible. 

“If there’s anything they may need during their stay, if their boiler blows up or they have a problem with their landlord, they come see us and we mediate. Then hopefully when all the houses are ready for occupation, we can offer them houses.”

The teams involved with the project are working expediently in order to support the demand with the first housing units expected to be ready for move-in on March 17.

"We're very appreciative of the hard work our teammates from DIO Regional Delivery and VIVO have put in, working with our RAFF CE team and RAF Croughton Housing to complete the Change of Occupancy Maintenance works necessary to get the homes ready for use," said Stover.