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Feature Story - September 2006

Camp Moffett

Design Immerses Recruits In Patriotism, Navy Story

by Craig Barner

The U.S. Navy has set sail on a design-build project that will better welcome aboard recruits in Illinois.

The $41 million project at Camp Moffett, an induction facility at the Naval Station Great Lakes complex, will ensure raw recruits' initial experience is a memorable one as they begin the transition from civilian to military life, said Capt. Rame Hemstreet, commanding officer of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest.

Moffett is an approximately 100-acre site in the center of the 1,000-acre-plus Great Lakes complex, which is about 30 mi. north of Chicago. Recruits spend their first five days or so at Moffett before being sent to either Camp John Paul Jones or Camp Porter, both also in Great Lakes, to undertake the bulk of their training.

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A barracks structure previously in Moffett was demolished at the onset of the project in August 2005. Existing buildings were retained, including In Processing, Combat Pool, Clothing Issue, Medical Dental Complex and the Separation Barracks, which is where one-time recruits go who in the end choose not to swear allegiance to the Navy.

New structures were built as part of the project, including a roadway, the P-Day Barracks--where the recruits sleep--and galley and classrooms attached to the barracks in an annex.

Other project elements included infrastructure, utility relocations, repaving an access road and expanding a parking lot for civilian employees.
About 1,000 to 1,300 recruits pass through Moffett every week.

Maiden Moffett Voyage

In the past, recruits' first sights at Moffett were less than inspiring.

They were driven down an approximately 1,200-ft.-long service road and dropped in a parking lot. From there they walked a small distance to In Processing.

"It's like going through the back alley," said J.J. Tang, senior project designer of Chicago-based M+W Zander, the project architect.

He added that coming into Moffett will now be much more stirring.

After going though the gate at Moffett on a bus, the recruits will proceed through several points and see several things aimed at plunging them in Navy traditions and imbuing them with pride at the prospect of soon being sailors in the world's mightiest Navy.

The recruits will come to a colored concrete circular plaza and turn right to an approximately 200-ft.-long, 28-ft.-wide thoroughfare called the Avenue of the Flags lined with the flags of each U.S. state and territory. The thoroughfare ends in a circular, brick-paver plaza surrounded by American flags and with a flagpole in the center, also hoisting the Stars and Stripes.

"The Navy likes to use immersive design to pound images into kids' heads," Tang said. "'You're in the Navy and should be proud of yourself.'"

From there, they will turn left and be driven down a 500-ft.-long, tree-lined thoroughfare.

They will pass beneath an A-frame canopy that covers a walkway perpendicular to the driveway and across it. The A-frame provides a vista of what is ahead: a final circular plaza fronting an entryway with canopy, also in an A-fame.

The entryway feeds an enclosed bidirectional concourse. To the left is In Processing, where the recruits are registered and checked medically.

They arrive at night as part of the indoctrination process to separate them from civilian life, and the entryway and white-walled concourse adjacent are brightly lit and embellished with approximately 9-by-12-ft. photographs, creating a montage of Navy ships, events and people and representing the core principles of honor, courage and commitment. A timeline of Navy history is also on the wall.

"Just imagine that everything is dark, and the only things that are lighted are these pictures," Tang said. "Emotionally, it's overpowering."

Inside, the concourse features gray, exposed structural steel similar to the beams on a ship.

Another key element called the Campus Central Plaza directly fronts In Processing. The plaza is a rectangle surrounded by trees and featuring a star in the pavers in the middle and another American flag.

"The key to this whole project is the fact that this is what we call the quarter deck of the Navy," Hemstreet said. "It's the first experience a recruit has >> upon joining the Navy."

Practicality played a role in the design, too, especially the enclosed concourse. The walkway connects In Processing and other buildings: the Combat Pool, Clothing Issue and P-Day Barracks.

The concourse will allow recruits to go among these buildings without going outside--not a small consideration in the Midwest where the weather is often foul. Previously, recruits had to frequently put on and take off foul-weather gear, when the climate warranted, to circulate among the buildings during their initial training.

"The constant putting on and taking off of gear takes time, and the Navy has a regimented process of bringing the recruits through training day by day," Tang said.

Indeed, the concourse is expected to shave a week from the training program every year and save millions of dollars a year because of reduced training time, said Michael Betz, senior project manager of M+W Zander.

Why Design Build?

The Navy uses design-build for about 80 percent of its construction projects, Hemstreet said.

"It allows us to get the best ideas from the construction industry and realize our objectives," he added.

The Navy process usually involves prequalifying selected firms, establishing the basic project needs, narrowing the selection to about four firms and reviewing the semifinalists' detailed proposals. The winning proposal is usually based about half on cost and half on quality.

Avoiding Interference

Accommodating recruits' training was the biggest issue during construction because of their large number, said Mark Wagner, senior vice president in Chicago of Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction Group Inc., a member of the Clark/Blinderman/Knight LLC design-build team. In addition, the construction activity occurred right in the center of the Great Lakes complex.

"We couldn't be invisible, but the issue was how do we not interfere with their day-to-day activities," he added.

Solutions included meeting with Navy personnel daily and working out the walkways recruits would use every day.

During sitework, soil contaminated with asbestos was uncovered because of the barracks demolished at the onset of construction. It was remediated and shipped to a landfill accepting special waste.

"Every utility you can imagine" was relocated because some existing lines were demolished, Wagner said. Service was usually maintained except for some brief outages.

Construction activity is expected to be complete in October.



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