$18 Million Readiness Center Completes Grand Island Helicopter Campus
By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
Grand Island, NE -
Preparing soldiers for wartime and peace, the Nebraska National Guard has opened a high tech training center for the future in Grand Island.
Don’t call it a National Guard Armory, this is a Readiness Center.
"Readiness is everything," said Major General Daryl Bohac. "We have to be ready to go when we're called upon, whether it's the governor or the president of the United States, having a state of the art facility our soldiers can work out of and train, makes all the difference in the world."
Rep. Adrian Smith said, "We're trying to balance resources and channel resources in an appropriate direction, and look down the road several years. I think facilities like this are modern and enable men and women in uniform to plan for the future."
Five years after the National Guard’s helicopter base opened in Grand Island, the campus is complete with modern training space. It's definitely a step up from the armory built in the ‘50s.
Gov. Dave Heineman said, "This is a lot better facility. The classroom capabilities, the real life training they can simulate with all the electronics. They can take better care of their equipment and facilities."
With $18 million in federal funds, they designed a building that’s green but practical. Lt. Col. Shane Martin is the construction facility management officer for the guard. He said a lot of attention to detail went into the building.
He said, "Functionality doesn't always meet with sustainability, combining the two with energy efficiency built in, is quite challenging but with great feedback and meetings, we've been able to do that in this facility."
The roof-line resembles a helicopter rotor. The sunshades are modeled after the Chinooks that fly at the site.
Even the handrails look like antennas on choppers. There’s also a rooftop garden for energy efficiency.
Major Dustin Wilkie said, "I haven't seen anything like this in the region close to what we have, maybe Denver, it's awesome. We're the envy of many states in the region."
Wilkie said they've been accepted as part of the community, and feel at home in the area.
He said, "It's been a great transition. Hard to believe it's been 11 years already, seeing everything come to fruition that we planned on - new aircraft, new facilities, it's great. Now we're ready to move forward with new missions."
The governor says it’ll also help with recruiting. But most importantly, he said this sends a message the Nebraska National Guard will fly high with the best possible training.
"They want to be proud of what they're doing, and this facility makes them proud," he said.
His first impressions?
"Fantastic, first class, A-plus, we’re very proud of it."
There’s a lot of technology built in, allowing soldiers to take classes remotely. Flexibility is built in too, with spaces designed to be used in a lot of different ways.
The new $18 million building includes 92,051 square feet of space for training, administration and support.
The new facility will house multiple Nebraska National Guard aviation units including:
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-376th Aviation Battalion (Security and Support);
Company D, 1-376th Aviation Battalion;
Detachment 1, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion;
Company B, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion;
Detachment 1, Company D, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion;
Detachment 1, Company E, 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion; and
Detachment 4, Company B, 935th Aviation Support Battalion.
Approximately 226 full- and part-time soldiers will work and train in the facility.