VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. --
As Space Launch Delta 30 and Team Vandenberg build for the future, they sometime have to say goodbye to the past legacies that helped build the foundation of this WWII-era installation that began as Camp Cooke in 1941.
Through the years, countless facilities on base have been turned over to help reduce maintenance costs and make way for new infrastructure, allowing Vandenberg Space Force Base to continue improving its range and spaceport capabilities for future launch and test missions.
On October 11, 2021, one more facility will join the ranks of the fallen at Vandenberg SFB as Chapel 2, one of four WWII-era chapels that served G.I.s during the war, will be demolished as part of an ongoing program to remove outdated and underutilized structures from around the base.
“Facilities on base are maintained until it becomes economically infeasible to maintain them or there just isn’t a use for them anymore,” said Bob Griswold, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron chief architect. “Buildings that aren’t being used by an organization anymore are turned back into CE and evaluated to see what kind of work or repair they might need to be reused. If it gets too expensive or we don’t see a suitable use for the building, it’s identified as a demolition candidate.”
With Chapel 2 in need of repairs and no longer being used on a regular basis, it joined the list of candidates for removal in January 2013, pending available funding.
“The building had a lot of water damage,” said Griswold. “It needed a new roof, repair to failing wood siding on the exterior and it need to be painted. Doors and windows were leaking, warped and needed replacement. The heater in the basement wasn’t operating both due to its age and the fact that there was four feet of water in the basement mechanical room. It really needed a lot of work to make it usable again.”
The facility had already received an extended life back in the late 1990s, when the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron funded a renovation project for the Chapel 2 interior in an effort to upgrade and extend the facility and continue its usage. The renovation project even netted the 30th CES an Air Force level design award in 2001, which Griswold highlighted was a notable achievement at the time.
“We had picked the chapel as one of the last WWII buildings on base to renovate and serve as a hub to our dormitory area for young airmen,” said Griswold. “Back then we had three more large dormitory complexes, five complexes in total, and our dormitory population was a lot larger. Then the dorm requirement changed and the excess dormitories were demolished, leaving the chapel standing all by itself. Our attention then turned towards providing the dorm complexes with activity centers within their own areas.”
Although the need for the facility was lessened by the change to the dorms, the efforts of the 30th CES design team did still pay off. The newly renovated Chapel remained in service for several years, providing an alternate location for weekly chapel services and programs, while also hosting weddings and other community events before eventually shutting down due to structural damage.
“Chapel 2 fell out of use in 2012 after a water leak caused warping of the floors and flooding,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Sogka, NCOIC of Religious Affairs. “It has remained an icon of hope and fond memories for many members and their families here at Vandenberg though.”
Since the facility was a standardized chapel design of the U.S. Army, it does not fall into any category for historic preservation according to Dr. Scott Bailey, SLD 30 historian.
“There is no known significant event that occurred at the chapel,” said Baily. “It also does not have direct associations with the productive lives of persons important in local, regional, state, or national history. The United States Army Corps of Engineers built several of the same designed chapels across the United States, so this chapel design is already well preserved on other facilities that meet the preservation requirements within the National Registry of Historic Places.”
As with many past facilities at Vandenberg, the legacy of Chapel 2 will live on in the memories of those who attended services and hosted events there, a sentiment shared by Sogka.
“Last month I spoke with a woman who, as a young girl, attended services with her father each week while he was working on the base, supporting launch missions over 20 years ago. Another Team V member had attended gospel services with her family and even celebrated her husband’s retirement at Chapel 2. Some of our retired members have spent decades worshipping there as a faith-community. At one time, it was a prime location for worship services supporting Airmen living in nearby dormitories. We are sad to see the traditionally styled chapel demolished, but are thankful that the base still has an elegantly designed sanctuary at Chapel 1 which maintains the traditional architecture and can remain the center of spiritual support to the men, women, and families of Team V.”