Feds okay closing Linden Armory

Published 11:09 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

LINDEN — The Alabama National Guard announced Tuesday it would soon be closing 13 armories in the state, a list that includes the facility in Marengo’s county seat.

“It was a total surprise to me,” Linden Mayor Mitzi Gates said of the news, which she learned of in mid-October.

“Since 9/11, the Army has transformed from a heavy, Cold War force to a lighter, more quickly deployable force. In order to continue to train and support the Alabama National Guard’s portion of that force, cost savings must be identified and executed,” a press release from the Alabama National Guard said. “To assist in cutting costs and increasing readiness, thirteen armories across the state will be vacated and returned back to the Alabama Armory Commission for disposition in fiscal year 2012.”

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The release furthered by explaining the Guard’s position that the maintenance of the facilities has become far too costly.

“Many of the Alabama Guard’s facilities are aging. The maintenance for these sub-standard armories is expensive and diverts funds that could be better utilized on other facilities. The Alabama Guard is saving more than $7 million by vacating these armories instead of bringing them to the current standard and will save more than a quarter of a million dollars each year in maintenance costs for these 13 facilities,” the release stated. “Approximately 59 percent of Alabama National Guard facilities are more than 30 years old. This will increase to approximately 72 percent by 2016. Older facilities in poor condition have various and widespread negative impacts on several things to include quality of work environment; health and safety concerns; space and capabilities to conduct proper, state-of-the-art training; and recruiting and retention of the highest quality Soldiers. “Alabama must maintain its share of trained, deployable Soldiers in order to avoid losing units to other states,” said Alabama National Guard Mobilization Readiness Officer, Lt. Col. Nicky Medley. Part of that, Medley believes, is ensuring the best facilities are available for training Soldiers.”

“I’ve had a number of people call or come by to say they hated to hear the news and also to express their thanks for what the National Guard ARmory has meant to Linden for all the years it has been a part of our landscape,” Gates said. “I think that it means the loss of a very important tradition in our town. It has touched the lives of so many in our town. And, of course, there is the economic impact. There are 14 full-time jobs currently there between the armory and the motor pool.”

The Linden armory currently serves as home base for a unit of 54 guardsmen, a group that will reportedly be reassigned to Selma upon the closing of the facility.

“These changes do not reflect a decrease in force structure; no units will be eliminated. All units will be moved to other, better facilities, often closer to their higher headquarters unit,” the release informed.

“We considered several, important factors in the decision making process,” said Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, Alabama National Guard Adjutant General. “Those factors included unit readiness, historical recruiting accessions and recruiting potential in particular areas, age and condition of facilities, location of units in relation to their headquarters, ability to respond statewide to disasters, cost analysis and more. This was a very complex process and we didn’t take the decisions lightly. We wanted to ensure that we gave our Soldiers the best facilities and placed them in the right locations to provide the citizens of Alabama the best support in time of disaster.”

Other facilities lost in the closure will be the armories in Thomasville, Grove Hill, Georgiana, Greenville, Hartselle, Heflin, Lineville, Millport, Moulton, Ozark, Union Springs and Wetumpka.

“The information I was given said this is a final decision,” Gates said. “But I am operating under the hope that this is not final until the doors are c losed. I will do everything I can, along with some dignitaries and very concerned citizens here in Linden.”

Armories will be vacated during this fiscal year. Specific dates for closings will be determined by mission conditions.