By Steve White firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting missions from Grand Island to Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Nebraska National Guard Aviation base is first class but training quarters at the old armory in town are outdated.
Sergeant First Class Jamie Frey of 1-376 Headquarters Unit said, "We're making do with facilities we had and that's what the National Guard does, we make things happen."
As Governor Dave Heineman turned the ceremonial shovel, work begins on a $22 million "readiness center", something he says is a leap forward from the National Guard armories of the past.
Heineman said, "This is where we train, where we prepare. Nebraska National Guard, their soldiers do an incredible job but in order to do an outstanding job for us, they've got to have good training facilities so that's what this is all about."
Nine years after the guard picked Grand Island, community leaders like Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Johnson consider it a turning point.
She said, "It's that time that Grand Island made a decision to grow up and be a community that could compete and present itself as a leader in the state of Nebraska."
Now the National Guard expands with this 92,000 square foot energy efficient facility. This will be the second biggest in the state, only to Lincoln's new training center.
Major General Judd Lyons said, "Readiness Centers like this one in Grand Island, when it's completed, really become focal points for what the guard's all about and that's community based service."
Instead of driving back and forth to the old armory in Grand Island, guard members like Jamie Frey will drill where the helicopters are.
He said, "There's more room for soldiers to conduct better training. More so, it'll be a pride thing for citizen-soldiers we have."
259 soldiers will work and drill at the Readiness Center. The architect was the firm of RDG Planning and Design. Samson Construction is general contractor and work is expected to wrap up in 2014.