Army National Guard opens new facility in La Plata
After having to work and train in poor conditions at the previous Maryland Army National Guard facility in La Plata, soldiers now have a new, updated building that will allow the 253rd Engineer Company to prepare for its state and federal missions.
The Maryland Army National Guard completed the construction of the 28,626-square-foot Readiness Center to replace the current facility, built in 1952. The new facility contains classrooms, administrative and support areas, a 5,727-square-foot assembly hall, a library, a physical fitness area and a recruitment office.
“We broke broke ground to create the facility on April 24, 2013,” National Guard Col. Charles Kohler said. “The $9.28 million project was funded through the Army National Guard’s Grow The Force initiative. Our old facility was used in 2002 during the F4 tornado where our soldiers responded to disaster relief needed in the county. It’s going to be critical to our success in supporting both federal and state missions. Our soldiers will be able to train with state of the art equipment and use the facility as a staging area for any domestic emergency that they will be called upon to support.”
Soldiers of the 253rd Engineer Company have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the wars there. The unit has also been activated to support state emergencies such as snowstorms and flooding in recent years.
On Oct. 16, Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, the adjutant general of Maryland, hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the official opening of the Readiness Center in La Plata.
Brandon Altvater, commander of the 253rd Engineer Company, said the facility is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certified for energy efficiency. The facility holds 103 people and currently allows for unit training as a combat engineer company.
“Having the facility is a morale booster,” Altvater said. “The old facility was over 60 years old and we grew out of the old building. At the old building, things were falling apart, didn’t work, and our lockers weren’t nice and square. Now with this brand new facility, it smells new, it’s a new home, the soldiers love the gym, which has all new equipment and for our guys it’s surreal or like coming home at Christmas time.”
Non-commissioned Readiness Officer Brandon Kennedy, who drills and trains at the facility, said the old and new facilities are like night and day.
“The old building did have a lot of history but it was literally falling apart because it was so old,” Kennedy said. “The new building is environmentally friendly and technology progressive. The kitchen in the previous facility was condemned. It was like fighting an uphill battle at the last facility and this new facility is a huge step up.”
Kennedy said much of their training is done online and a lot of the soldiers are relieved to finally have classrooms, their own work space in the library and projectors to help teach additional training.
“I don’t see how we could have continued to make it work much longer at the old facility,” Kennedy said. “In terms of personal gratification it’s a huge morale booster to not have to walk in and see the walls aren’t falling apart and I don’t have to clean asbestos off my keyboard in the morning. Everything is clean and structured well at this new facility. It’s a facility that our unit can take pride in which was really difficult to do at the last facility where we were.”
Kohler said the old facility will go through a process to be offered to the county and local government if they have a need or desire to use it. New training and preparation for missions have already begun at the new readiness center in La Plata.
The inside of the Brigadier General William Smallwood Readiness Center in La Plata.