May 22, 2008

Virginia Army National Guard breaks ground on new armory in Frederick County

By Drew Houff
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The Virginia Army National Guard’s new armory in Frederick County will more than triple the space of the existing armory on Millwood Avenue in Winchester.

Local, state, and federal officials welcomed the advent of the new facility on Monday during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site, 1740 Millwood Pike.

The new armory will be built on a 9-acre parcel on the eastern edge of the former Carper’s Valley Golf Club — a 281-acre site north of the Winchester Regional Airport.

"We are breaking ground on a new armory because of a great team effort," said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., the adjutant general of Virginia and host of the event.

"This project would not have become a reality without the tremendous effort on the part of the Virginia General Assembly to secure state funding, our congressional leadership who worked hard to obtain necessary federal funding, and civic leaders in Winchester and Frederick County who pulled the entire project together," he said.

Del. Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick County, agreed with Newman’s assessment.

"It’s been a long time coming," she said. "It would have been nice to have had the groundbreaking before our troops came home [from the Middle East]. The facilities will be upgraded, and that is something important in the long run."

The Winchester-based Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division of the Virginia Army National Guard returned to Winchester on May 8 after a nearly eight-month deployment to Kuwait.

Sherwood said the new armory, which will be 51,183 square feet and located less than two miles east of Interstate 81 off U.S. 50, allows for expanded training for guardsmen who have had to train in the existing, 15,522-square-foot armory that opened in 1940.

She said the new armory’s importance increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"It will be a center point for preparedness," Sherwood said. "It will allow our troops to come home and serve. We need a place for the troops."

The armory, which will cost $9.8 million to build, should be completed by February 2009. It will be accompanied by a new, $3.1 million field maintenance shop, which will be 13,300 square feet — more than four times larger than the current, 2,850-square-foot shop that was built in 1978.

Prior to his retirement at the end of last year, state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. of Winchester worked with Sherwood to shepherd the new armory through the General Assembly.

Potts, in fact, started pushing for a new armory 16 years ago, when he worked with former Del. Alson H. Smith Jr. of Winchester, who died in March, in trying to get funding for a new facility.
"[Monday] was a joyous day for our fighting men and women," Potts said at the ceremony. "With the proud military history of the ‘Fighting 29th,’ it is important.

"This nation is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and these wonderful troops deserve a place a whole lot better than the Winchester Armory."

Sherwood said the federal funding is crucial. The armory is being financed through 75 percent federal money and 25 percent state money. The maintenance shop is funded 100 percent by federal funds.

U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-10th, said working with Sen. John Warner, R-Va., to get financial support was important, particularly because of the Winchester-based Guard unit’s history of longstanding service.

"It was the only National Guard unit at Normandy [in World War II], because General [George C.] Marshall wanted a Guard unit to be there," Wolf said on Monday. "They did serve there, and they have both served in Iraq and Afghanistan and have suffered losses."

The local unit’s most recent loss was in August 2004, when two of its soldiers — Staff Sgt. Craig Cherry of Winchester and Sgt. Bobby Beasley of Inwood, W.Va. — were killed during a deployment to Afghanistan.

Wolf said the existing armory needs to be replaced, especially as National Guard and Army Reserve units continue to play a major role in the nation’s post-9/11 defense.

Wolf said the need for a new armory was first brought to his and Warner’s attention by Potts.
"It will be the most modern, up-to-date armory in the state," Wolf said.

The new armory will utilize an energy efficient, geothermal heat system. It is also designed to utilize natural lighting as much as possible, minimizing the need for artificial light during daytime operations.
Potts lauded Wolf and Warner — along with former Virginia governors Mark Warner, Jim Gilmore, George Allen, and Charles Robb, and current Gov. Timothy M. Kaine — in supporting the project over time.

"I was so happy and proud to be [at the groundbreaking]," Potts said later in the day.
State Sen. Jill H. Vogel, R-Warrenton, also lauded the efforts of those gathered at the groundbreaking.

She said Potts, Sherwood, Wolf, and Warner each played a huge role in getting the facility.
"It is truly state of the art, and will be unlike any in the state of Virginia," Vogel said of the armory. "It took 16 years, but it will be worth the wait. It is long overdue."

Warner, who also participated in Monday’s ceremony, talked about the local history of troops from the Winchester area, having served with distinction all the way back to the French and Indian War.

Frederick County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard C. Shickle said he is pleased that the new armory will be built near the existing facility.

"It’s always been here in Winchester-Frederick County, and I wanted to see it stay here," he said. "You would hope with the modernization and the size of it, it will be here for a while."

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