Army Na­tional Guard opens new fa­cil­ity in La Plata

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIFFANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The in­side of the Bri­gadier Gen­eral Wil­liam Small­wood Readi­ness Cen­ter in La Plata.

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