TYNDALL AFB, Fla. (WMBB) — After two years of planning as Tyndall Air Force Base rebuilds from Hurricane Michael, base officials are calling Tuesday morning a milestone moment; they held a groundbreaking event to begin construction on the first new facility being built for the “Base of the Future.”

This is also the first new facility to be constructed on base since Hurricane Michael.

“People said it would be years before Tyndall was ‘back to normal,’” said Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, who is the Executive Director of the Tyndall Program Management Office, which is in charge of the rebuild. 

She said those people were wrong for two reasons; one, they “don’t know the resiliency of the men and women of the 325th Fighter Wing,” and two, going back to “normal” was never the intention. 

“We weren’t aiming for how things used to be,” she said. “We were aiming for the future.”

She was joined for the ceremony on Tuesday by other base officials and community leaders to commemorate the progress made since Hurricane Michael and the beginning of a transition from “vision to reality,” as the “Base of the Future” starts to come to life. 

“The fact that we’re actually breaking ground on one of the new construction projects is a really, really big deal for us,” Brig. Gen. Melancon said. 

The new facility being built will be a $17 million Air Battle Manager Simulator, where battle managers from across the country can train. It’s the first of 44 new projects consisting of over 120 new facilities being built on the base over the next five to seven years.

“Most installations around the country only see one or two (military construction) MILCON projects in a year,” said Bay Defense Alliance President, Tom Neubauer. 

He said the progress is exciting to watch, since defense makes up a third of the local economy and Tyndall will serve as a test of resiliency and efficiency for the entire US Air Force.

“We have a real opportunity here to attract missions and retain missions,” Neubauer said. “This really secures the future of Bay County, Florida.”

325th Fighter Wing Commander, Colonel Gregory Moseley, said it’s especially exciting as the new F-35’s come to Tyndall in 2023. 

“We’re going to set the pace and set the marker on the wall for everybody as we go forward,” Col. Moseley said. “The United States Air Force has invested time and treasure with Tyndall and we’re going to make that happen in September of 2023 when we bring those airplanes online.”

While new buildings are going to start being built around the base, old buildings are also coming down; demolition work has started on old base housing off of US-98.