August 10, 2010 
by Gordon Duff

Stirling House

By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor
One of the best run efforts in the US military is the lodging program.  The miliary runs a series of low cost hotels for military families and retirees in transit or on holiday.  Built on bases, some under only limited use, these facilities are our foothold in many areas of the world, financially self sustaining and vital when we have needed them.  We have needed them often.  RAF Fairford is our only facility near the west of England, the last foothold outside East Anglia.  Other than it being a top vacation spot, it is also one of the world’s premier runways on a base proven vital over and over.
Slated to close in two weeks, there are few minor acts that will have the long term consequences on military families as this one.
With the US joining the Defense Academy base at Shrivingham, only a few miles away and the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Force in Gloucester, also close by, American personnel will be forced into the scant local inns, a very “family unfriendly” environment.  $250 a night for a small room with cigarette smoke and pub noise is hardly a replacement for an American facility profitable at 10% of the cost with 75% more room and a commissary and gas pump to boot.
Once the staff, many serving for over 20 years, gone, the mistake is going to be hard to correct.  Fairford already is booked continually, used continually and now, with new commands in the area, needed even more. 
It is also a bit of history of Americans who served there since World War II.
The typical guests at this facility and those like it are military families who are looking for local accommodations.  There is no place in Britain where a military family can spend a week or more in a family friendly environment, not a family with children.  With the nearest “digs” at RAF Croughton, many miles to the East, an untenable commute to our commands, closing Fairford, hardly a savings for the DOD, is a blunder. 
As I have been told, the rationale has nothing to do with serving our troops overseas or saving money.  A bank account was moved and making deposits is now inconvenient.  This is why we close a vital base.  What I am asking the Air Force is to do the math.  You are making a profit.  I have seen the letters, the blogs.  Nobody can believe this is being done. 
We spent a hundred million or more building the monstrous hotel in Garmish.  Considering the cost of meals, it is priced at market rates and has become a nightmare to maintain.  The only way costs can be covered is to lower food quality and move conference after conference there, all to keep it booked, some of those conferences, as we know, were better served if located elsewhere.
If we need to save money, reopen the Patton Hotel, close down that boondoggle and keep Fairford.  

Stirling House, Air Force Inn at RAF Fairford, UK

One thing I do know, is that any US military coming to the Defense academy base at Shrivenham just down the road, or the new NATO base in Gloucester (NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Force) aren’t happy that all their facilities are being taken away. That includes having somewhere to stay whilst they search for a house.  Families suffer enough stress as it is.  Taking away a valuable “home away from home” that costs nothing and serves well is not what we are looking for. 
Cutting back the things that help our military familes survive is not a savings or benefit to anyone.


  1. My wife fron Cheltenham and I were planning on bringing our four children to England so they could see where their mother was from. Please keep it open.

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