Fort Riley opens Army's 1st Warrior Zone
September 8, 2011
- Army's 1st Warrior Zone, resiliency
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Fort Riley Soldiers, who have been taxed by the demands of an Army at war, are kicking their feet up at a new facility where relaxation is the only requirement and the only shooting, running, dodging and diving is done on a computer screen.
The Warrior Zone, which officially opened for business Aug. 26, is a $10-million facility that features 68 computers for general use and gaming, dozens of game systems hooked into 55-inch flat screen televisions, pool tables, poker tables, a snack bar that seats 75, a full bar, a theater and a large conference room. Outside, a covered patio invites Soldiers to fire up a grill and relax beside a large fire pit.
"This is 25,000 square feet of fun," Maj. Gen. William Mayville, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, said during the facility's ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 23.
Located on Custer Hill at the heart of the "Big Red One's" primary barracks' footprint, the Warrior Zone is a place for Soldiers to focus on developing strong friendships that enhance a troop's ability to maximize its potential and deal with the stresses of war, Mayville said.
"This is about resiliency," the commanding general said. "This is about getting a little bit of down time and preserving our capability as Soldiers."
Having a place like the Warrior Zone right outside the barracks' door makes hanging out and having fun with friends easy, according to Pfc. Joe Pelletier, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div..
"This is a beautiful facility," he said. "I like to watch football and drink beer, and this is a great place to do those things."
Pelletier, who is married, said he will still come to the Warrior Zone when his wife arrives at Fort Riley so he can introduce her to new people in a fun and friendly environment.
"When she gets here, we will just be living right down the street, so this will be a great spot to take her to dinner," he said.
Mayville said the Warrior Zone complements the Fort Riley programs and facilities already in place that all play a part in sustaining the health, wellness and strength of the BRO Family.
"We have great gyms, great facilities, tremendous services and programs to help (Soldiers) get back in the groove, and what you have here now is a perfect place for down time," he said.
Sgt. Adam Millican, Fort Riley Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers president, said he is excited the post's single Soldiers now have a great, safe place close to their homes where they can relax.
"This facility is about providing Soldiers a home away from home where they can come and escape for a little bit," the young noncommissioned officer said. "This is going to increase Soldier morale for sure."
The Warrior Zone is a work in progress and will continuously evolve to meet the needs of the 1st Inf. Div.'s Soldiers, according to facility manager Mark Desmet. Already, Soldiers are telling Desmet's team what they need from the Warrior Zone -- later weekend hours -- and the Warrior Zone team has responded by changing closing time on Friday and Saturday to 1 a.m.
"I have a great team that is trying to give the single Soldiers a place to hang out and have fun," Desmet said. "So far, we have had a lot of very happy customers."
Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and the environment, was one of the many officials present at the ceremony to celebrate the Warrior Zone opening.
Hammack said she was impressed at first sight of the new building.
"I was absolutely amazed when I saw this facility when I walked in the door," she said. "It's really an amazing facility with a lot of opportunity and capabilities."
Hammack said Fort Riley was a perfect installation for the Army's first Warrior Zone because of its growth.
"We have a lot of Soldiers here on Fort Riley, and it's only increasing," she said. "We built the first Warrior Zone here because of the need -- our Soldiers need to get out of the barracks. A lot of our young people nowadays are very computer-oriented, so they work on computers and play on computers, and that can be a solo kind of activity. This kind of facility gets our Soldiers out, and it gets them talking to each other and playing … in a casual atmosphere that focuses on that camaraderie that we want to continue to develop."
With Department of Defense budget constraints, it will be unlikely for newly constructed Warrior Zones to be built at other installations, Hammack said.
"With budget cutbacks, it's going to be difficult for us to do a lot of things," she said. "Some of that is good, because we're bringing Soldiers home, and that's what we want to do -- bring Soldiers and Sailors and Marines and Airmen home, and we are going to have decreased costs because the fighting that we've been doing is declining. But, we have to have the facilities to support them. It's going to be very difficult to build facilities like this in the future. We have Warrior Zones that are retro-fitted, they're carved out space, sometimes it's leftover space, but to have a brand-new facility with this capability is really amazing."
While at Fort Riley, Hammack also visited other new construction built with funds from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure. The 2005 BRAC is about to a close, as implementation of it must be completed by Sept. 15.
"Over $18 billion worth of construction went on throughout the Army, giving us new quarters, the ability to serve our Soldiers, house our Soldiers and feed our Soldiers in the facilities they deserve," Hammack said. "This post has seen about $1.7 billion of construction funds over the last 10 years, and this post is just about fully built out, so we are not going to see that same level of construction. What we're going to see is utilization of existing facilities and renovation of existing buildings and utilization of the space that we have."
The Warrior Zone is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday. For more information about Warrior Zone programming and events, visit rileymwr.com/warriorzone or call 785-240-6618.