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The Commons creates 'dynamic environment' for Airmen, families

  • Published
  • By Michelle Martin
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — When Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. unveiled his "Accelerate Change or Lose" strategic platform almost two years ago, one thing was clear — the status quo isn't going to work anymore.

The chief of staff of the Air Force specifically mentioned the "dynamic environment" in which the Air Force operates, and the different factors it takes "to continue the mission and take care of Airmen and Families." Why? Because the success of the Air Force depends on making successful changes at home to ensure the quality of life for Airmen and their families exceeds expectations.

82nd Training Wing and installation Commander Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew and the team at the 82nd Force Support Squadron have taken that to heart as they've taken an uncommon approach to creating a dynamic environment for Airmen and families here with The Commons.

A ribbon cutting ceremony held June 9, 2022, kicked off the grand opening of The Commons after being closed for a four-year renovation. 

“Since General Drew has gotten here, he’s emphasized there needed to be a renewed focus with Sheppard Air Force Base and our partnership with the community,” said Jeff Gutierrez, 82nd Force Support Squadron deputy. 

With the understanding that Sheppard AFB and Wichita Falls have been linked for 80 years, the intended design of The Commons highlights and recognizes that partnership in a unique setting, while also accomplishing the creation of a multipurpose space to serve permanent party, dependents and Airmen in Training. 

One of the ways they did this was through the new coffee shop, Common Grounds, located on the west end of the spacious 24,330-square-foot building. Gutierrez said while the name was a play on words, they specifically named the shop after the idea that the common grounds that we are all walking on is Wichita Falls.

“This is a place where new families to Sheppard, and AiTs who are in Phase I training and are curious what’s outside the gates, can get their bearing,” Gutierrez said. “We can take this opportunity, in a fun way, to orient people and let them know about their new town.” 

The 82nd FSS deputy said some of those things include tribute walls to both partnerships with Midwestern State University and Hotter’N Hell Hundred, a Wichita Falls history wall, and another with a large map pointing to local attractions for Airmen and families to do. 

“Another detail we included in our coffee shop is the locally sourced and roasted coffee beans,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a neat way for us to give a nod to the many businesses in town who serve and support the people from Sheppard, and also bring a taste of Wichita Falls into the gates.” 

Outside the glass doors of the coffee shop awaits the expansive and highly anticipated indoor children’s playground, Information Tickets and Travel office, library, makers space for crafts, and an escape room. All of these opportunities are centered around a common area with several places to sit, talk, work, study, and read.

“I am really excited about everything inside The Commons,” said Lauren Wooten, wife of 364th Training Squadron instructor Tech. Sgt. Cody Wooten. 

“We’ve been waiting for this to open. I’m relieved to have something to do with my kids when it’s hot outside and a place I can meet up with other moms, let the kids play, have some coffee and just hang out where everything is all in one place,” she said. “I also love that we have a place to bring base families together and have more community.”

The mother of two with another due in September said she loved the age range of activities The Commons provided, but mostly that she can now keep her house clean and bring her kids somewhere else to get all their energy out. 

Another unique feature 82nd FSS focused on were the hours of operation. Gutierrez said they wanted to make a space where families could gather with their kids, but then after certain times, the children’s facilities close to create a different environment for AiTs, student pilots, and permanent party.  Starting with a morning cup of Joe to an evening glass of wine, gaming in The Drop Zone when it moves in, or finding your way out of the Escape Room, FSS has thought of it all. 

When asked what the next big thing is for 82nd FSS, Gutierrez said they aren’t finished yet with The Commons area. They are currently working on putting a to-go version of P.F. Chang’s on the western corner of Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Boulevard and Third Avenue across from Burger King with the hopes it will be completed by next spring. He also said they are looking at creating outdoor space between the two facilities with areas to gather and potentially a place for live music.

Two other quality of life projects in the queue include a new Child Development Center, which is expected to be completed in 2023, and the replacement of the remaining 27 old cabins at Lake Texoma. Nineteen of the 46 cabins have already been replaced.

“We want to make our programs more relevant for the community at Sheppard,” he said. He explained making things modern and up to date is the focus, but also giving families a safe and comfortable environment to prosper or for students here to excel.

“We want to change the narrative with the families and AiTs,” he said. “We’d love for them to say ‘I went to Sheppard and did my tech training there – it was a really great base,’ and that propagates out to the rest of the Air Force.”

For more information on services offered at The Commons, or hours of operation, visit https://www.82fss.com/the-commons or call (940) 676-6152.

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