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Education center transforming to call center

ELLSWORTH AFB, S.D. -- The new Air Force Financial Services Center is a few steps closer to becoming a reality at Ellsworth. 

Part of the financial services center will be located in what was formerly the education center. The changes to the building exterior will be transparent to the casual observer, but the interior is getting a major face-lift. 

"We're basically doing a conversion to renovate the building so we can meet new mission requirements," said Howie Aubertin, 28th Civil Engineering Squadron engineering flight chief. 

The interior will not be an office space with box-like cubicles wedged onto every inch of floor space. 

Mr. Aubertin explained former classrooms and offices are being demolished to allow for sunlight in workspaces allocated for the employees. 

"It will be a great and refreshing work environment because of all the natural light and space we've allocated in the functional area of the center," he added. 

Mr. Aubertin said the work on the building is geared to allow the first group of finance specialists, scheduled to arrive in April, to test their internal equipment and to be operational by the October timeframe of 2007. 

"We've broken down the center's two floors into separate sections," Mr. Aubertin explained. "We've implemented an aggressive timeline to have specific sections
completed as people gradually arrive since there's not enough time to complete the entire project beforehand." 

Mr. Aubertin, who has 20-years of engineering and construction experience, gives the constructional success credit to others. 

"My staff and I are like kids in a candy store with this project," he said. "This really is what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My engineering staff and entire team are really pushing the envelope. 

"We're laying the track in front of the train ... and the train is already coming down the track. 

During an inspection tour to survey progress of the facility, Col. Renita D. Alexander, 28th Mission Support Group commander, said, "This building is going to look great. They've done tremendous work so far." 

With this phase of building refurbishment nearly complete, Mr. Aubertin is quick to point out efforts by other base agencies that have helped construction progress. 

Mr. Aubertin explained the mission support squadron has found new workcenters for people affected by the refurbishment of the education center, and the Rushmore Center, Douglas School District and other squadrons are housing college classes.

There's also been a lot support from the contracting squadron and the communications squadron to get this initiative off the ground, said Mr. Aubertin. Personnel from the financial services center have also contributed, he added. 

"The base support has been tremendous," he said. It's just been a joint effort. Everyone has been on board, supportive and very helpful." 

Lt. Col. Lucien Grise, 28th Bomb Wing chief of plans and programs agreed.
"We have had a great team integrating expertise form the communications, CE, contracting and comptroller squadrons and partners in the Air National Guard," he said. 

"We still have a lot of work to do in finalizing communications requirements and interior design, but there are no showstoppers to us making our milestones." 

An estimated 500 total employees will work in the former education center building when its refurbishment is complete.