As the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing continues transitioning to the F-35 Lightning II, many of the facilities on base are being upgraded or remodeled to support the new aircraft.

The 115th Civil Engineer Squadron, along with more than 100 local contractors, have been hard at work doing just that. Construction began in 2021, and currently includes nine simultaneous projects and more than 500 contractor employees — most of which are from the local area.

115th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bart Van Roo — who leads the 1,200 Airmen assigned to the wing — is overseeing the unit’s conversion to the F-35.

“From the beginning of the F-35 conversion process, it has been our priority to continue to be connected with and support our local community in everything we do — this effort is no different,” Van Roo said. “To date, these contracts and projects have contributed approximately $50 million back into the local economy.”

Local contractors have been supporting the construction effort with specialties including excavation, steel erection, HVAC, electrical, plumbing and paving, as well as other construction trades.

The 115th Fighter Wing’s base civil engineer, Lt. Col. Mike Dunlap, and his team of engineers have been diligently managing the effort since design work started in 2018. Others within contracting, communications, base safety, and security forces have also played a critical role in executing these projects.

“It’s been great to work with such a high caliber group of individuals who are knowledgeable and outstanding at their crafts,” Dunlap said. “We are grateful to have such talented people in the Madison area.”

Dunlap’s team is responsible for managing each contract from start to finish, including overseeing the bidding process and managing the day-to-day operations on the job site, which can be complicated.

“This has truly been a team effort,” Dunlap said. “Construction operations are an intricate web in which every job depends on the other, and our contractors are vital to our mission success. This is just the beginning, and we are looking forward to continuing our partnership with local businesses as we continue with more projects in the future.”

In addition to the projects currently underway, six more are scheduled to begin before the end of the year.

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