Armed Forces Reserve Center in Sand Springs is a model for the rest of the state

Thursday, August 18th 2005, 10:27 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's armed forces are getting a facelift. Nearly 4,000 Army National Guard members may soon have a new place to call home, with state of the art training equipment.

Guard leaders made the announcement Thursday and the News on 6 visited the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Sand Springs.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin says it's all part of the military's Base Realignment and Closure plan. If the BRAC list is approved, Oklahoma guardsmen will say good-bye to outdated armories built in the 30's and 40's and move into new training centers like this one.

It's a top to bottom re-structuring nationwide. For Oklahoma guardsmen and reservists it means new digs, to better equip them, leaders say for the changing missions they face in the future, in a military relying more and more on these men and women.

Oklahoma National Guard Major General Harry Wyatt: "we've got to get our soldiers into up to date, modern training facilities, if we're gonna continue to do the state and local missions that our citizens expect of us."

In the wake of the base closure recommendations list announced a few months ago, Oklahoma leaders developed a plan to re-station Army National Guard units. They're called "Armed Forces Reserve Centers", joint facilities between the Guard and Army Reserve. The $243-million BRAC funded project will build seven strategically located joint centers.

The Sand Springs site was the first of its kind in the state. Besides saving money at the Pentagon, on the local level soldiers say one of the biggest benefits is sharing training methods and state of the art equipment. Master Sgt. Bryon Fry: "They have skill sets that our guys are trained up on and vice versa."

Part of that training is staying in shape; new facilities have a fully equipped gym and a restaurant-style kitchen, practically unheard of in most armories. "In your older armories the kitchens are way outdated, or falling apart or condemned. This one allows our cook section to cook for us and even cater out in the field if we need to go out there."

Fry says the biggest boost will be to morale, leaders believe improved facilities will help recruitment efforts as well. "They have a lot of history in those armories, a lot of great soldiers have been through those armories but times are changing for us, op tempo is higher, we're deploying more, it's a place they can go and come back to and just feel proud of."

Despite the lengthy closure list, officials say Oklahoma is not losing personnel, but simply relocating them, many to new facilities in the same community. If the plan is approved, construction will begin in 2007. When it's done the old buildings will be turned over to the communities they're in for other uses.