USACE Builds the Foundation for Future USAF Warfighters

For more than 275 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been known around the world for building the foundations of military capabilities in some of the most challenging environmental conditions.

Danny Olivas, one of USACE’s South Texas Area Office resident engineers, and his team of quality control representatives and project managers, understand the most critical foundations they build aren’t always measured by concrete structures.

“When you think about the capabilities that the Corps of Engineers has with managing the construction of physical buildings, it’s satisfying to know that this facility is going to be providing the technical foundation of our future Air Force Special Warfare operators for generations to come,” said Olivas.

Building under construction
Progress at the construction site of the future U.S. Air Force’s Special Warfare Training Wing’s Aquatic Training Center, at Joint Base San Antonio’s Lackland AFB – Chapman Annex, Sept 25, 2023. This photo represents a merger of 11 sectional photos to create a full frontal panoramic. US ARMY ILLUSTRATION BY RICHARD BUMGARDNER

Currently, the Air Force’s Special Warfare Training Wing trainees use an outdoor Olympic-sized pool with a bubble on top. When complete, the new $60 million facility, encompassing more than 76,000 square-feet, will consist of two enclosed, climate-controlled indoor swimming pools of varying depths geared to meet the training needs for the Air Force’s global combat operations. Both pools will have overhead catwalks and access doors to accommodate boat entry as well.

The new Aquatic Training Center will accommodate training for over 3,000 Air Force Special Warfare trainees every year.

“At the Special Warfare Training Wing, we build warrior Airmen to carry out the nation’s most dangerous tasks in austere locations, and this aquatics training center will play a pivotal role in the development of their lethality as special warfare operators,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Nathan Colunga, SWTW commander, at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Training Annex.

Maj. Gen. Kimberly Colloton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Deputy Commanding General for Military and International Operations, listens to Gerlyn Ortiz, a civil engineer with Southwestern Division’s Fort Worth District, as he describes construction challenges at the site of the 323rd Army Band’s facility, at Fort Sam Houston. USACE PHOTO BY RICHARD BUMGARDNER

As the premier Air Force training wing for special operators, SWTW provides initial and advanced skills training for Air Force ground combat forces. This training includes entry-level and apprentice courses for Special Tactics, Combat Rescue, Combat Control, Pararescue, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party officer and enlisted specialties.

During a tour of JBSA construction projects, Maj. Gen. Kimberly Colloton, the Army Corps of Engineers’ deputy commanding general for Military and International Operations, visited the new aquatic center construction site and was impressed with the breadth and scope of the project.

“I really think this is going to be a world-class facility that will empower our young Airmen,” Colloton said. “They’ll be given the best training they can receive, to be able to do the difficult mission that they’re going to be asked to do. It’s neat to be part of that, to see our Corps of Engineers team delivering that facility, which is on time, on budget, and of the highest quality.”

The construction of the SWTW Aquatic Training Center is a combined effort between engineers and project managers from USACE’s Fort Worth District, in collaboration with counterparts at 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Special Warfare Training Support Squadron, Air Force Civil Engineer Center and civilian contractors.

“It’s exciting to walk around the project and see the progress. Every time I look, there’s new growth which takes us one step closer to the first cohort of Special Warfare Airmen jumping in next year,” Colunga said.

Project managers and engineers from Southwestern Division’s Fort Worth District, provide a tour of the future U.S. Air Force’s Special Warfare Training Wing’s Aquatic Training Center, at Chapman Annex of JBSA San Antonio’s Lackland AFB, Texas. USACE PHOTO BY RICHARD BUMGARDNER

Under the guidance of Olivas and his team, construction of the SWTW Aquatic Training Center will be a transformational step towards building the foundational attributes and capabilities of future Air Force special warfare combat controllers, pararescue, special reconnaissance and tactical air control party Airmen.

Projects of this magnitude help modernize the military to combat the challenges of Great Power competition, which former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley stated would be needed for future combat operations.

As one of the four pillars of U.S. military power, modernization is about more than weapons, it is also about building the bench for military leaders of the future.

“As we shift gears and prepare for the future fight, this aquatics training center will integrate human performance and training to hone the combat dive capability and increase our training capacity,” Colunga said.

The Aquatic Training Center is just one of many projects that the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District is managing in the JBSA area.

“This project, and several others, are once-in-a-lifetime projects, ones that will be available for generations and generations of future war fighters long after I depart the Corps,” Olivas stated.

The USACE team is also providing the construction management for building eight Airman Training Center buildings at JBSA-Lackland that will each house more than 1,200 trainees at Air Force Basic Military Training; managing the construction of secure facilities for the Air Force Personnel Center expansion; renovating and repurposing Civil-War era buildings at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston; building innovative new childcare centers at four different bases; and converting an aircraft hangar to a climate-controlled, precision measuring equipment lab and building environmental shelters for aircraft maintainers, both at JBSA-Randolph.