Strong Bond between Eglin AFB, Host Communities Helps Preserve Base’s Military Missions

Eglin Air Force Base is the beneficiary of long-standing support from the 14 municipalities that surround it. A series of mutually beneficial partnerships have helped preserve the base’s vital flight training mission and other activities, and sustain the region’s infrastructure and natural resources.

For anyone flying into the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, this close relationship becomes immediately apparent. Okaloosa County’s commercial service airport is located on land Eglin leases to it. The joint-use airfield accommodates more than a dozen types of military aircraft and all of the area’s civilian air traffic.

A partnership among the Okaloosa County Commission, the Okaloosa Defense Support Initiative and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity allowed Eglin to preserved 1,500 acres on its northern border and ensure that residential development would not encroach on the base’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter flight corridors and test and training areas. The loss of that mission would have jeopardized $332 million in on-base military construction funding and $38 million in base operating support funds. The neighboring communities also have amended local plans and codes to limit incompatible development outside of Eglin.

Eglin and the county are collaborating on several environmental projects as well. The base partnered with Okaloosa County and the city of Niceville to install a supplemental reclaimed water main in a utility easement on Air Force property. This project provides reclaimed water for the city and Eglin, reducing demand on the Floridan aquifer, the region’s main potable water supply. Eglin also is diverting its concrete waste to build 40 acres of artificial reefs in near-shore waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The effort will enhance the area’s marine tourism industry by supporting fishing, boating and diving activities.

Eglin forged a base energy resource and innovative partnership with the Gulf Coast Energy Network. This initiative will help the installation cut its energy use and increase the amount of energy produced by renewable sources. The base is working with the energy network and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County to develop partnerships with public and private entities to foster research, education, training and installation support for sustainable energy programs and energy conservation measures.

Eglin AFB, Okaloosa County and the neighboring communities have found many ways to help each other thrive by sharing resources and making the compromises necessary to ensure that each group’s activities and needs are accommodated without being detrimental to the other partners. For the close collaboration with its many host communities that has helped sustain its missions and the region’s natural resources, ADC awarded the 96th Test Wing at Eglin its Installation Excellence Award.

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