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After mothballing armory, National Guard returning to Pierce County with new readiness center

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on June 19, 2013 at 9:34 am |
June 19, 2013 4:10 pm

4:10 p.m. update: Wait, wait there’s more.

The state Military Department is budgeting $33.6 million for this project, with the Army setting aside about $27 million and the state contributing $6.6 million.

These details came to light when State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, called. She helped the state Military Department find the Buckley location and she views the readiness center as a vital addition to that community’s economy.

“This is so big for Buckley,” she said.

1:20 p.m. update: The National Guard might select a site outside of Tacoma for the readiness center it plans to build, a National Guard spokeswoman said.

The National Guard is looking for a 20-acre site in Pierce County that would accommodate training for a unit consisting of more than 300 citizen soldiers, said the Washington Military Department’s Karina Shagren.

About 38 Guardsmen would be full-time, year-round employees.  The others would carry out drills there once a month.

Earlier today, Washington lawmakers referred to the project as a “Tacoma Readiness Center” in news releases announcing funding for the effort.

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The Washington National Guard wants to come back to Tacoma after all.

Three Puget Sound congressmen today announced that the Army has set aside money to build a new Tacoma National Guard readiness center and it is looking for a site to maintain a permanent footprint in the state’s third largest city.

The project would replace the recently sold 105-year-old Tacoma Armory. That historic structure was once used for National Guard training and to prepare citizen soldiers for World Wars I and II. It had limited military use in recent years.

The National Guard stopped using the building in late 2011 and it suffered severe flooding damage in 2012.

“This is very welcomed news as it is past time that the Tacoma Armory be replaced,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. “Several members of the delegation have raised the pressing need to replace this aging facility, and I’m pleased to see the Army finally agree.”

The Army is setting aside about $26 million for the Tacoma site. It’s using money from several other construction projects that came in under budget, according to an Army bid request.

“This is a smart, efficient use of existing federal dollars to support our local citizen soldiers,” Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said.

Developer Fred Roberson recently the bought the old, castle-like armory from the state for an estimated $950,000, according to public records.

He told The News Tribune this month that he wants “to make this building one that the whole community can enjoy.”

The Washington National Guard over the past few years has received construction funds for readiness centers targeted to specific units.

It’s building a $35 million, 127,000 square foot readiness center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for information operations units. They’re the units that seek to influence enemies through deception and psychological operations.

The Washington National Guard also received $22 million in 2009 for a readiness center that serves its main helicopter units at Lewis-McChord.

The lawmakers today did not provide a timeline for when the Tacoma readiness center might be built. It is to receive funds through next year’s defense budget, they said.

Army bidding documents describe the readiness center as 97,000 square foot building that would feature modern information systems and utilities.

“A safe, modern training facility for the Washington National Guard is great news for our citizen soldiers,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.

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