Thursday, May 8, 2008

New level of military housing opens

Photo by Rick Thompson
Shelli Bowman cuts the ribbon opening her family’s new home as husband AT1 Christopher Bowman (holding their one-year-old daughter Theresa) looks on. Helping keep the ribbon in position was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Facilities Howard Snow.
Five ribbon-cuttings at once under bright sunshine highlighted Monday’s formal opening for Challenger Es-tates and Columbia Colony. While Columbia Colony received its first homeowners in December, Monday was the formal opening of both.

Both projects are named for Space Shuttles lost during missions. Each street is named after astronauts, nearly all of whom graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Pax River. Monday’s ribbon-cutting, for example, was held on Gibson Way, named for Robert L. Gibson. Gibson flew missions on both Challenger and Columbia, later retired and is a member of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Both Columbia Colony and Challenger Estates are operated by Lincoln Military Housing. In addition to the five families who moved into Challenger Estates Monday, there are 34 homes occupied in Columbia Colony. It will eventually house 92 families, while Challenger Estates will house 125 by the time it is completed early next year.

Jarl Bliss, senior vice president for Lincoln Property Company, said ‘‘the developments here at Challenger Estates and Columbia Colony are out of the ordinary from what we’ve typically been doing. The Navy requested we locate some sites out in the market, purchase the sites and then build homes for military families. St. Mary’s County has been very welcoming for us, helping us plan these communities.”

Naval Facilities Atlantic Installations and Facilities Commander Rear Adm. Christopher Mossey said the two projects are part of 386 new homes being built in the Pax River area, with another 247 to be renovated.

‘‘Overall, the Navy has 32 projects like this totalling $8 billion across the United States,” he said. ‘‘The most important thing is that when you look around you get an immediate sense of community. It’s a community where families can be together and grow.”

He continued, ‘‘We expect so much from our Navy families, and it’s so important for our service members to know that, when they’re deployed, their families are in a safe, quality home. It’s such a burden lifted from their shoulders.”

Mossey concluded, ‘‘This project will be a significant improvement to the quality of life of our Sailors and their families.”

Pax River Commanding Officer Capt. Glen Ives, said, ‘‘Of all good things I’ve seen in the past four years as XO and CO, nothing comes close to the significance and importance for my military families as what we are doing here today.”

Ives’ father served 30 years in the Army, and Ives served 30 years as a naval officer. ‘‘I know military housing,” he stated. ‘‘When I was growing up, you could pick out military housing. If there were 500 homes and one was military housing, you could pick it out — and it would be the last home you would pick to move into. It was that easy to see.”

He continued, ‘‘That’s just the way it was, and as service members we just sacrificed and did what we had to do.”

Today, however, ‘‘My Sailors, my Marines, my families are going to move into homes that are absolutely fantastic. They’re open, have great kitchens and two-car garages. I could not be more proud of the tremendous strides we’re making to improve the quality of life for our Sailors.”

Speaking to the housing team, Ives said, ‘‘You’ve done something in the past few years that I never thought could happen.”

With that, Ives introduced the five families who would be moving into homes this week. After the introduction, they dispersed to the front doors of their homes. There was a countdown by the crowd attending the event, and on ‘‘zero” all five opened Challenger Estates and Columbia Colony.