ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Robins Air Force Base officials gave a rare honor Wednesday to a former commander.
The base dedicated its new command and control center to the late Col. Billy Edenfield, who served as base commander from 1986 to 1989. After his retirement, he went on to serve as president of Middle Georgia Technical College.
Col. Mitch Butikofer, 78th Air Base Wing commander, said only a couple of other buildings on the massive installation are named after someone. He said an effort was made to reach out to the base and community to identify someone for the honor in naming the new building.
“Col. Edenfield’s name quickly rose to the top,” Butikofer told a crowd of base and community leaders at the dedication.
Edenfield commanded the 2853rd Air Base Group, which would later become the 78th Air Base Wing. Paul Hibbitts, who was the top civilian in the 2853rd, told the crowd Edenfield was much deserving of honor.
“He loved for people to think he was really rough and tough but underneath he was probably one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet,” said Hibbitts. “He had a heart of gold, and his compassion and the love he had for his people were exceptional. You always knew where you stood with Col. E.”
The new building will officially be called the Edenfield Command and Control Center. Base leaders will use it as a gathering place in the event of a crisis, and it will be used for management of exercises.
Edenfield died July 3, 2011. He was 74.
“I can’t tell you how deeply I appreciate today,” said his widow, Ginger. “I miss Billy something fierce.”
She also noted that when her husband retired after 30 years in the Air Force, the Gulf War started a short time later and he tried to “re-up.”
“Billy downright loved the Air Force,” she said. “He was so proud to be a member of the United States Air Force.”
The new command center has been in use since October. Butikofer said it is an important addition because he consolidates operations that had been in three separate buildings. It has an array of technology and communications equipment, so leaders from around the base can meet in one place to manage an emergency.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.