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The little bit of drizzle didn't dampen spirits at the Nebraska Army National Guard's Army Aviation Support Facility on Tuesday afternoon.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked completion of a $4 million renovation project that began in 2017.

While the main hangar area of the maintenance facility remains largely unchanged, more than 37,000 square feet of office and workshop space, classrooms, supply areas, a fitness facility, latrines and break areas were remodeled.

One of the key renovations was to the flight-operations area. Personnel now have a dedicated radio room with an unobstructed view of the airfield to monitor operations.

"The building has always been ad hoc. This is what we have and we do what we could with the space we were given," said Capt. Oliver Berglund. "Now we've got a lot more space to work with and we built it the way we needed it to function."

The building on the south edge of the Lincoln Airport serves primarily as a maintenance center for some of the Nebraska National Guard's aircraft, including nine Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and four Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota helicopters.

The renovations were aimed at providing a more streamlined experience for personnel during training and operations. That includes a larger storage and locker area for aviation life-support equipment technicians who make sure the equipment used by airmen remains in tip-top shape.

"I've got a lot more space to work with, and the service desk means that I don't have to chase anyone down anymore," said technician Dylan Swepston. 

While the interior remodeling was aimed at modernizing the facility built in 1956 for just more than $500,000, participants sought to keep the original design as much as possible, said project manager Anthony Sanna.

"We tried to modernize the space to their needs while still keeping that industrial feel," he said. "We really wanted to give these people a nice space to work at that doesn't make them feel drained at the end of the day."

The facility's 40-year-old heating and air-conditioning system was replaced with a new, more efficient system consisting of 54 geothermal wells. Gov. Pete Ricketts praised the design at Tuesday's rededication ceremony.

"This facility will now allow our soldiers to be able to do their maintenance in an environment that is going to be more climate-controlled and cleaner, something that's going to help with their efficiency, lift their morale and generally make this a better working environment," he said.

Drawing a metaphor to running the Chicago Cubs, Ricketts stressed the importance of updated facilities.

"We knew that in order to run a world-class organization, we would need world-class facilities," he said of the upgrades made to Wrigley Field by the Ricketts family, which owns the team. "And the same applies to the Army National Guard."

Renovations were completed in February, and personnel working in the facility didn't have to wait long to benefit from the improvements.

While it's mostly used Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Spc. Aaron Winberg recalled the two weeks of 24-hour operations that followed widespread flooding across the state in March.

Helicopters assisted in a number of ways, from deploying sandbags and dropping hay to stranded livestock, to life-saving rescue operations.

"As soon as we got the call we were able to get up in the air in 20 minutes," Winberg said. "It's easier for us now to get the information we need before we go out the door."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or eclopton@journalstar.com.

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City desk intern

2019 city desk intern at the Journal Star

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