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COLONEL SERVES AS BASE 'MAYOR'.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - Col. Wendy Masiello's background is in managing contracts, but at Edwards she is running a community.

As commander of Edwards' 95th Air Base Wing, Masiello is responsible for the operations of the 301,000-acre base, including its housing, personnel, construction and communications.

Because the duties of the commander of the air base wing are quite similar to those of a top city administrator, the officer holding the post is sometimes referred to as the ``mayor'' of Edwards.

``I had the opportunity to take this job and I've loved every minute of it,'' Masiello said.

A top priority for Masiello is ensuring that personnel are trained and properly equipped for deployment overseas. Toward that goal, the base recently added urban warfare training, conducted in an old section of base housing earmarked for demolition, to the pre-deployment training.

``We will not let somebody leave unprepared and unprotected,'' Masiello said.

At any given time, roughly 100 members of Edwards personnel are deployed overseas, primarily drawn from the base's security forces personnel. Helping to fill security duties at Edwards is a cadre of about 80 California National Guard troops.

To aid with processing troops for duty overseas, Edwards officials are looking to relocate the base's deployment center from a small, cramped building to a remodeled portion of a warehouse.

The base is steadily working on improving the quality of life for its personnel and their families, the colonel said.

The base will continue its program of replacing aging housing with new homes. The president's proposed 2005 budget includes $41.2 million to replace 218 housing units at Edwards.

Much of the base's housing was built in the 1950s. The aging homes are becoming increasingly more costly to maintain and they lack central heating and cooling systems.

Additional funding is expected in the next two budgets to help Edwards replace over 600 homes.

Another project aimed at making life easier on base is the construction of the $8.7 million, 49,000-square-foot Consolidated Support Facility, which will allow military personnel to complete their incoming and outgoing processing in one building.

The building, expected to be open this summer, will bring together under one roof offices with several functions that are now scattered around the base, including both the military and civilian personnel offices, the office that handles identification and vehicle passes, and the air base wing command.

``It's an opportunity for us to minimize time away from mission by having only one place to take care of business,'' Masiello said.

The new building is expected to save more than $500,000 a year in maintenance, utility and other costs, officials say.

Another project is the opening later this year of an $18 million, 44,000-square-foot clinic that will replace a tiny 46-year-old hospital that was converted into a clinic.

Other changes at Edwards might appear to be minor to the world outside of the base, but they have a big meaning - the base commissary is now open seven days a week instead of six; Subway, the sandwich shop chain, opened a ``shopette'' in February and will open a second in a few weeks; and a skate park has recently opened.

Last summer, an indoor playground was built inside a portion of the base's former commissary. The playground is being spruced up by volunteers from corporate giant Viacom's Paramount Studios unit.

``They bring Hollywood talent in to do this for us,'' Masiello said. ``It's just phenomenal. It truly is a gift for our people.''

One project Masiello would like to see funded is a new fitness center. The base's fitness center, more than 40 years old, is cramped and is becoming a problem to keep up.

With a new focus on fitness coming down from the Air Force chief of staff, Masiello said she wants Edwards to have a proper fitness center.

``We want people to make it (fitness) a lifestyle and not go over there and think 'OK, how long has that carpet been down?' and 'When will that roof fall in?'''

The base is also getting funding, approximately $250,000, to install a rubberized running track.

Masiello grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and joined the Air Force after being named a distinguished graduate of Texas Tech University's ROTC program in 1981. At Texas Tech she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration, and she earned a master's degree in logistics management from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Masiello said as she considered her career options, she wanted to find a job where she could get bored after two or three years at an assignment, then want to move on - and have that be a good thing.

``The Air Force was the perfect bill,'' Masiello said.

In her Air Force career, Masiello has held a wide variety of positions in acquisition and contracting, including space and air armament systems development and acquisition, and contract administration. She has served as the director of contracting at the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, and as the deputy director of plans and programs at the center.

In June, Masiello will leave Edwards for Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where she will become the director of contracting for Aeronautical Systems Center, the parent unit of Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale.

Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com

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(color) Col. Wendy Masiello, commander of Edwards' 95th Air Base Wing, has been in the Air Force for more than 20 years.

Jim Skeen/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 11, 2004
Words:925
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