December 10, 2003, 08:45

Ground is broken for new facility at Ft. Pickett

By Lt. Col. Chester Carter, III
Public Affairs Officer

(Left to right) Mr. Cord Sterling; Mr. Luchen Niemeier; Maj. Gen. Claude Williams; the Hon. John Marshall, Sec. of Public Safety; and Lt. Col. Tom Perkins turn the first shovels of earth for the expansion of the MATES facility at Ft. Pickett.  (Photo courtesy of the Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office)

BLACKSTONE, Va. - Dignitaries and guests witnessed the Dec. 9 groundbreaking ceremony held at Ft. Pickett for the expansion of the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES) maintenance facility.  The Honorable John Marshall, Secretary of Public Safety; Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, the Adjutant General; Mr. Cord Sterling and Mr. Luchen Niemeier of Sen. John Warner's office; and Lt. Col Tom Perkins, Superintendent of MATES turned the first shovels of dirt for the project.  The $18.5 mil construction project will increase the size of the MATES to over 153,000 square feet and eliminate the need for World War II vintage facilities where much of the maintenance on equipment supported by MATES currently takes place.  

Established as the Annual Training Equipment Pool in 1961, the concept was for National Guard units using Pickett as a training site to locate some of their larger equipment at the installation rather than shipping the equipment from home station whenever training took place.  The mission of the Annual Training Equipment Pool was to store and maintain equipment such as tanks, howitzers, and other armored vehicles that visiting units could use rather than incurring the high cost of shipping their equipment between home station and Pickett.  
When it was established in 1961 the Annual Training Equipment Pool had 31 full time employees and maintained approximately 100 armored vehicles including M48A1 tanks, M1059 carriers, and M84 mortar carriers and support equipment.  The equipment supported in 1961 was much smaller and less complex than the equipment currently supported by MATES.  Today over 100 highly-skilled MATES employees maintain over 600 items including 70 Abrams tanks, 59 self-propelled howitzers, over 160 armored carriers and 85 command carriers as well as related support equipment from over 80 Army National Guard units in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
In 1961 the Annual Training Equipment Pool was housed in old warehouses and two locomotive repair shops that were built in 1942.  The facilities were adequate for the mission at that time.  But the supported equipment grew in size, number, and complexity.  A MATES construction project was completed in 1986.  But even with that construction the maintenance facilities did not meet the demands of the mission.  Today approximately 50% of the MATES workforce works out of the original Annual Training Equipment Pool facility which is well over 60 years old.
The expansion and modernization of MATES will provide a state of the art facility designed to support the modern equipment that is maintained there.  The facility will be fully compliant with safety and environmental laws and regulations.  This will ensure that MATES employees can accomplish their maintenance support mission in a safe and environmentally sensitive way.
This expansion will also ensure that Ft. Pickett continues to be a key military training site for the mid-Atlantic area.  The enhancement of these facilities will allow MATES to continue to deliver professional support to the soldiers that train at Ft. Pickett as well as provide maintenance facilities for modern equipment that will enter the Army's inventory in the future.  Col. Glenn Walker, who traveled from National Guard Bureau to participate in the groundbreaking, said the objective was to make Ft. Pickett a "training center of choice" for the units on the east coast including Army National Guard enhanced brigades located in the Carolinas and the Stryker Brigade that is projected to be a part of the Pennsylvania's 28th Division.

Although the name has changed over the years from Annual Training Equipment Pool to Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site or MATES, the mission has remained essentially the same.  To provide professional support to the soldiers training on Ft. Pickett's 42,000 acres of maneuver area and ranges.

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