Statewide Listening Tour - Kirtland Air Force Base

Over the last month, my blog posts have focused on my visits to towns across New Mexico—Taos, Los Alamos, Valencia, Gallup—but in between these trips I’m still getting out and about around Albuquerque, learning more about the research, initiatives and partnerships UNM is a part of here in the Duke City.

My most recent visit was to the impressive Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB), where Base Commander Colonel Richard Gibbs and Chief Master Sgt. Robert Stamper briefed me on the base operations and personnel. The 52,000-acre base employs more than 23,000 people, including those at Sandia National Labs, active duty military, national guard soldiers, contractors and others. The operation is supported by nearly 800 buildings, 750 miles of road, 5 fire stations and 1,078 private residences. And 28 operating satellites! 

I grew up on military bases (my father was in the Air Force), but KAFB is by far the biggest, and one of the most fascinating, I’ve had the honor of visiting.

Dan Crouch, Chief of Grounds Systems & Space Operations Division talked to me about the Advanced Systems and Development Directorate, and its research and development of space operations. I also discussed the thriving relationship between UNM and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) with heads of directorates for valuable work on laser systems, and optics and lasers for space observation. This summer the AFRL has 166 interns, 27 or which are from UNM. The AFRL Tech Engagement Office does extensive work with several areas on-campus, including STEM outreach, internships through various departments and shared facilities. Not to mention the collaboration on grants that benefit both our student and faculty researchers—including a $6.7 million grant awarded to AFRL and the UNM School of Engineering in May. In addition, more shared spaces are opening up to support research at both UNM and AFRL. Later this month, the UNM Science and Technology Park is debuting a new lab, thanks to a collaboration with AFRL. 

The innovation, research and alliances coming out of the base are incredible. I’m excited by the amount of collaborative energy I saw throughout the facility, and the divisions working with it. As UNM continues to create outcomes that build incomes, I’m eager to continue finding new ways to partner with Kirtland Air Force Base.