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AFTAC Hosts Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Terry Ciambrone wistfully looks at her husband, Col. Thomas Ciambrone's portrait that was displayed in the foyer of the Air Force Technical Applications Center's new radiochemistry laboratory March 11, 2014, at Patrick AFB, Fla. The lab was named after the Air Force officer who spent 20 of his 30 active duty years working at AFTAC. "I know if he were here today, he would be so grateful to be a part of it," said Ciambrone's widow. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Donelson)
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Treaty Monitoring Center opens new chapter, new building

Posted 3/14/2014   Updated 3/17/2014 Email story   Print story

    


by Susan A. Romano
AFTAC Public Affairs


3/14/2014 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- After nearly 42 years of operating in a 1950s-era building, the men and women of the Air Force Technical Applications Center are moving into a sparkling new facility.

The center marked the event with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday on the grounds of the modern, 4-structure campus, which includes a 276,000 sq. ft. headquarters building; a 38,000 sq. ft. radiochemistry lab; a 23,000 sq. ft. central utility plant; and a 5-level parking garage.

AFTAC's guest speaker for the event was the Honorable James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence and a former AFTAC commander. He was joined on the dais by AFTAC's current commander, Col. Chris Worley; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district engineer and commanding officer, Col. John J. Chytka; and vice president and district manager of main contractor Hensel Phelps, Kirk J. Hazen.

Clapper's 11-month tenure at AFTAC was brief, but apparently memory-enduring.

"When I was here 30 years ago in 1984-1985, the old facility where I hung my hat wasn't bad for its time," he said. "But it's clearly time for AFTAC and its magnificent men and women - whether military, civilian or contractor - to work and serve the country in an equally magnificent facility."

The new headquarters building and laboratory are being named after two iconic members of AFTAC - Walter Singlevich and Col. Thomas Ciambrone, respectively.

Singlevich was a giant in the field of atomic energy and nuclear research. He began his career in 1944 were he was assigned to the Manhattan Project - the research and development program that produced the first atomic bombs during World War II. After several years in industry, in 1952 he began working for the Air Force's Office of Atomic Energy, where he directed the research for many nuclear tests in the South Pacific and the Nevada Test Site.

Singlevich ultimately became AFTAC's senior scientist and throughout the 1980s until his death in 1992, he operated the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System, directed the work of 850 scientists, engineers, technicians and analysts, and oversaw 20 laboratories in the U.S. and overseas.

"Walter Singlevich was a pioneer in the field of nuclear research," said Worley. "He played a critical role in making AFTAC what it is today - a globally-recognized, national asset that is continually relied upon by national decision makers, and his dedication, commitment and passion for AFTAC defined our center and make us what we are today."

Ciambrone was a career Air Force officer who spent 20 of his 30 active duty years with AFTAC. A chemical engineer by trade, Ciambrone worked primarily as a bench chemist at McClellan Central Laboratory in Sacramento, Calif., during the 1960s. There, he performed analysis of airborne samples that were collected from worldwide nuclear events of the day. After his promotion to colonel, he became AFTAC vice commander from 1981 until his retirement in 1987.

"Tom was - and maybe still is - 'Mr. AFTAC,'" said Clapper. "He loved the organization and loved in a most caring way the people in it. What made him so special was that he didn't have a pretentious cell in his body. As my vice commander, he taught me so much about AFTAC's mission, and his realization that mission success depended first on people."

At the close of the ceremony, Joan Singlevich, Walter's widow, and Terry Ciambrone, Tom's widow, were presented with memorial plaques recognizing their husbands' achievements and serving as a tangible memento for them to keep. The ladies were also given the honor of ceremoniously cutting the ribbon, marking the official opening of AFTAC's new facility.

"This is such a feeling of euphoria," said Mrs. Singlevich. "Walt would have been thrilled to death to know he received such an incredible honor. Everyone here today must be so proud, and I know they will live up to his memory each day they come to work in this beautiful building!"

Singlevich's two children, Scott and Becky, were also in attendance, and reflected on what it was like growing up with a giant in the nuclear field.

"All my friends would love to come over to our house because my dad would talk to them about all sorts of scientific topics, and he had such a way of speaking to young people," said Becky. "But as smart as my father was, he did have one major fault - he was geographically challenged, meaning he would get lost just driving around town! He was a great man."

Singlevich's son echoed his sister's sentiments.

"I would get into some really deep discussions with my dad," said Scott, a chemical engineer himself. "I remember one time when I was a very little boy, he had to go on another long business trip, and I didn't want him to be lonely. So I took this small teddy bear I had and slipped it into his satchel that he would always travel with. Do you know that for the rest of his life, my father kept that little bear in his brief case? That's the kind of man he was - brilliant and caring."

Terry Ciambrone was equally humbled by all the attention being bestowed upon her and her husband.

"I was so overwhelmed when the officials from AFTAC called to tell me they wanted to name their new lab after my husband," she said. "Tommy would always say that the people at AFTAC were his brothers and sisters, since he never had siblings of his own. There was such a deep and mutual bond he shared with the people here. I know if he were here today, he would be so grateful to be a part of it."

After the ceremony, guests got the rare opportunity to tour the facility. At one point during the open house portion of the tours, visitors could be seen wrapped around three quarters of the building's courtyard, anxiously waiting their turn to get an up-close glimpse into the world of nuclear treaty monitoring.

"This facility is built to last," said Chytka. "I know the Army Corps of Engineers is extremely proud to have been a part of this impressive project. Three noteworthy milestones include the fact that the project was completed one year ahead of schedule; we came in under budget; and probably most impressive was after more than one million man-hours of labor, we only had one minor lost time accident. That is a team dedicated to excellence and tough goals!"

Over the next several months, AFTAC employees will migrate from the old building on State Road A1A into the Singlevich Headquarters Building. The existing structure, with the exception of the south wing, is scheduled for demolition, and could take up to 10 months to complete.



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