Groundbreaking ceremony celebrates Laughlin improvements with Exchange renovations, AFCEC tour

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Team XL hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Shopping Center update on Jan. 19, 2024.  

This project contributes to the 47th Flying Training Wing’s ongoing initiatives for quality of life enhancments for service members and their families.  

The renovation, valued at $16 million, is expected to take 15 months to complete. 

The overhaul plan includes the introduction of a new Arts and Crafts Center, Outdoor Recreation Center relocation and upgrade, the introduction of the food vendor Chopz, new food truck stalls and outdoor dining spaces.  

Additionally, the integration of the Express to the AAFES shopping center will be complemented by the installation of new underground fuel tanks, enabling 24-hour fuel sales and the introduction of new diesel fuel options. 

“This project is more than just a building; it exemplifies our ability to transform challenges into opportunities,” said Col. Robert Moore, 47th Mission Support Group commander. “As we lay the foundation for the new Express facility and Exchange [AAFES] upgrades, we are also laying the groundwork for a more self-reliant and vibrant installation. 

“This enhancement reflects our dedication to providing a high-quality shopping and dining experience, and it’s about creating a hub of activity and a center of community life,” said Moore. “It represents our unwavering commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all at Laughlin.” 

Col. Kevin Davidson, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. Lester Lagaespada, 47th FTW command chief, Lt. Col. John Casey, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, Ms. Julie Mcneil, AAFES branch store manager, and Mr. Micheal Smietana, AAFES Senior Vice President Real Estate Directorate, joined Moore in turning the first shovels of dirt, commencing the project. 

Distinguished guests at the event also included Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) leadership who toured Laughlin Air Force Base. The tour supported an ongoing effort to engage with base-level civil engineers and ensure a strong connection to their AFCEC counterparts.  

“This trip was to highlight the challenges of Civil Engineering, here at Laughlin, especially where AFCEC plays a role,” said 1st Lt. Tabatha Herzig, 47th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy engineering flight chief. “We essentially were advocating for Laughlin to get help where we couldn’t do it ourselves. AFCEC wanted to know how they could make Laughlin better. We took them to multiple sites around base and each time we presented something, they would ask, ‘How can AFCEC help with this?’” 

During their visit, the group toured various areas of base, including the Robert “Bobby” Barrera Elementary STEM School, the unaccompanied housing area, the future site for the new officer and student pilot dorms, Rick’s Hall enlisted dormitory, and enlisted housing. 

“The whole trip was very beneficial,” said Herzig. “We had AFCEC representatives from several departments; they were each able to focus on their portion and identify areas where they could go back and help us find solutions to some of the concerns brought up.”