First Ordnance Soldiers arrive to Fort Lee
October 1, 2009
FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 1, 2009) -- The Ordnance School began saying farewell to more than 92 years of history at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., as the first wave of advanced individual training Soldiers arrived Sept. 23 to Fort Lee.
More than 500 ordnance Soldiers got their first look at the state-of-the-art facilities and were assigned rooms in the new barracks, before training began Monday at the school's $700 million campus.
"Our mission today was to get them into their assigned rooms, get them to sign for equipment and provide them with an orientation," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Malone, 16th Ordnance Battalion, 61st Ord. Brigade command sergeant major.
The students departure from the "Home of Ordnance" to the Sustainment Center of Excellence signals the beginning of a new era of ordnance training that will bolster Fort Lee's standing as the U.S. Army's foremost center for sustainment training.
Maj. Felix Valentin, 16th Ordnance Battalion provisional commander, is one of about 100 cadre and staff members who relocated from Aberdeen to establish operations here. He said the students' arrival represents a significant milestone in the schools' transition.
"I've been here seven or eight months preparing for this event, so it was like a feeling of fulfillment when the students arrived," said Valentin. "It was a feeling that ordnance is finally here at Fort Lee."
Fort Lee will eventually become home to the Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School, currently located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and the Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School at Aberdeen. Both schools will continue to operate at those locations, but will experience gradual reductions in operations over the next two years during the schools' transition to Fort Lee.
The Soldiers bussed into campus last week found an installation still bustling with construction activity, as contractors outnumber military personnel on site. Many of the more than 29 buildings are in various phases of construction. When the project is completed, the 300-acre Ordnance School campus will feature the largest welding training facility in the United States, the second-largest dining facility in the Army and state-of-the-art classroom and living accommodations. Students beamed when they were issued room assignments.
"The best part was watching Soldiers as they opened the doors, seeing their rooms for the first time," said Valentin. "That just made everything worth it."
The barracks include quality of life amenities such as weight rooms and recreational areas which should make life a little easier for Soldiers in training, said Valentin.
The new arrivals are assigned to Bravo and Charlie Companies of the 16th Ord. Bn. Malone said that another 600 Soldiers are scheduled to begin training at Fort Lee early next year. The school will complete its move sometime in 2011.
"We're glad to be here at Fort Lee and look forward to working with the quartermasters and Transportation Corps," said Malone.
Valentin likens the transition as a homecoming of sorts.
"It's always been Aberdeen and Redstone," said Valentin. "We've spent the past 90 years in Aberdeen, and now we're finally together with our fellow logisticians in one place. We're deployed out there together, and we work together as one team. We might as well train as one."