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AFRC civilian earns AF design excellence award

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner
  • Citizen Airman Magazine
They may not know it, but just about every member of the Air Force Reserve team has seen Pat McCutchin's work at one time or another. As Air Force Reserve Command's interior designer, Ms. McCutchin has put her personal touch on Reserve facilities from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., to McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and from Westover ARB, Mass., to March AFB, Calif. 

In her 23 years as the command's senior designer, Ms. McCutchin has overseen the comprehensive interior design on hundreds of new construction and renovation projects at 13 AFRC bases and 52 tenant locations throughout the country. For years, Ms. 
McCutchin was the command's only interior designer, but now she works with another full-time designer, Kathleen Richardson, and a contractor, Pam Jones. 

Contrary to what many people may think, there is a lot more to interior design than hanging pictures and selecting paint colors. 

"Interior design is not interior decorating," Ms. McCutchin said. "There is much more to it than that." 

Just as its name implies, comprehensive interior design includes planning and overseeing every aspect of a building's interior space, from floor and wall coverings to furniture; from making sure all of the utility outlets are in the right place to ensuring that walk-through traffic flows like it should and the lighting is just right. 

Interior designers get involved in new construction and major renovation projects costing more than $500,000 at "people-oriented facilities" throughout the command, mainly lodging, administrative and dining facilities. 

"The Air Force realized a long time ago that well-designed facilities help attract and retain good people, and they enhance productivity," Ms. McCutchin said. "We put a lot of time and money into our facilities to make sure they are something their users will be proud of." 

Ms. McCutchin, who holds a degree in housing and interior design from Florida State University, does such a good job of creating interior spaces their users are proud of that she recently received the prestigious Air Force Design Excellence Award in the civilian category. 

"I was shocked when I heard I had won," she said. "It's a good feeling knowing my peers recognize the work I've done." 

The award cited Ms. McCutchin's work over the past 10 years. During that time, she led comprehensive interior design work on new construction projects totaling more than $500 million and renovation projects totaling more than $550 million. Her work on the services complex at Grissom ARB, Ind., and the lodging facility at Niagara Falls International Airport Air Reserve Station, N.Y., both earned Air Force design awards in recent years. 

At any given time, Ms. McCutchin has about 13 major projects in the works at locations scattered around the country. She serves as the program manager for design, review and approval; programs the furnishings budget and initiates requisitions for the facility; and oversees installation and building occupancy. She's on the road about twice a month to check on the projects she has on the books. 

Needless to say, Ms. McCutchin stays extremely busy, but she wouldn't have it any other way. 

"I love my job," she said. "It's so gratifying when you see all of the planning and legwork you've done pay off with a facility that people enjoy and appreciate." 

One of those facilities is the recently renovated AFRC headquarters building at Robins AFB. The state-of-the-art conference room draws rave reviews for its distinguished design and functionality; the offices in the command section are sophisticated and comfortable; and the building's impressive entrance spaces, especially the Enlisted Heritage Hall, are both inviting and artistic. 

The headquarters building renovation took about three years and was not without its headaches, Ms. McCutchin said. 

"We did the renovation while the building was occupied. That makes life more difficult for both the contractors and the people still trying to work in the building, but it all worked out." 

"I'm extremely impressed with the quality of the renovation," said Maj. Gen. Allan Poulin, AFRC vice commander. "It's certainly a vast improvement, and I know all the staff members feel more comfortable in their new environment. I spent a lot of time at Langley AFB (Va.), the headquarters for Air Combat Command, and I know they would envy our fine facility." 

General Poulin said visitors often comment favorably on the headquarters building.
"I think this building helps us convey to visitors a feeling of professionalism while being welcomed as well," he said. "I always try to take our DVs (distinguished visitors) through the Enlisted Heritage Hall, and I never hesitate to invite them to join me in our fine command section. 

"In addition, I know General Bradley (Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley, AFRC commander) and his staff enjoy their visits to the headquarters where they can take advantage of these outstanding facilities. When we have briefings in the main conference room, either in person or by VTC (video teleconference), I am always proud of the wonderful impression it conveys."