News: Indiana National Guard and Army community gather to break ground
Story by Staff Sgt. Les Newport
LAWRENCE, Ind. - Mayor Paul Ricketts officially welcomed the Indiana National Guard and the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to the city of Lawrence during a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger at the site of the unit's new armory.
"You can close a fort in the city of Lawrence, but you can't take our admiration, our respect, for the armed services from the citizens of Lawrence," said Ricketts. "We are very pleased that you are here today, that you selected this site."
The Indiana National Guard will build the armory on land formerly part of Fort Benjamin Harrison, an Army installation designated for closure through the Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 1991.
The 96,000 square foot facility will be home to four companies of the 76th IBCT: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 76th IBCT; HHC, 76th Special Troops Battalion; and C and B Companies, 76th Special Troops Bn.
Approximately 450 Citizen Soldiers will attend monthly drills at the $15 million facility to include some 70 full-time employees.
Maj. Gen. Umbarger noted the armory will join several other Indiana National Guard organizations already located on the site of the former Army installation including elements of the recruiting and retention command and finance section.
"We're very blessed to have a wonderful Indiana National Guard, and we wanted to place a unit here that sent a message about how much we appreciate this by sending the 76th Brigade," said Umbarger.
The 76th IBCT will move from the unit's present location in the historic Tyndall-Moorehead Armory in downtown Indianapolis in 2010, but the armory will continue to house other Indiana National Guard units according to Lt. Col. Steve Hines, deputy construction and facility management officer.
"Tyndall Armory still has a lot to offer a National Guard headquarters element, but just as important, it has remained a vital landmark in a vibrant downtown Indianapolis," said Lt. Col. Hines.
Umbarger said the state is excited to relocate the 76th IBCT to Lawrence because of the long history the city has with the military. Despite the closing of the Fort Harrison, the Department of Defense continues to maintain the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, an Army Reserve Center as well as a new exchange and commissary.
"Many cities that go through [BRAC] don't have a plan. They begin to deteriorate... but this city is much, much different," said Umbarger. "You are the poster child for what right looks like."
The City of Lawrence established the Fort Harrison Reuse authority to redevelop the former installation for civilian use and has been recognized for the successful transition and as a model for public and government collaboration.
Col. Courtney Carr, commander of the 76th IBCT, joined the adjutant general in his enthusiasm for the move. Carr returned from a successful mission in 2008 as leader of the largest deployment of Indiana National Guard Soldiers since World War II and will guide the combat team as it assumes a role as a primary national response element in 2010.
"There is no question that this new facility will be more functional and will better facilitate our brigade's training and our readiness to serve our state and nation," said Carr. "But even more fortunate is our opportunity to join the community of Lawrence. As Citizen Soldiers being part of a community is important to us."