FORT LEE, Va. – During its 209th birthday celebration Friday, the Army Ordnance Corps officially opened a newly built training and support facility here and dedicated it to Col. George “Burling” Jarrett, a member of the branch’s hall of fame.
The outdoor ceremony was attended by more than 50 guests including Jarrett’s daughter and two grandsons. Numerous individuals also tuned in to the event livestream on the Ordnance School’s Facebook page.
“I can’t think of a better way to kick off the Ordnance Corps’ 209th birthday than to recognize the gift we have in this new facility and to dedicate it in memory of Col. Burling Jarrett, who contributed so much to collecting, preserving and sharing the artifacts now housed here,” observed Brig. Gen. Michelle M. T. Letcher, Chief of Ordnance, during event remarks.
Students trained at the OTSF, Letcher noted, learn about the history of significant artifacts as well as the critical role Ordnance played in research and development that led to the Army’s success on the battlefield.
“The (historical) training program restarted here last November and, since then, 3,500 Ordnance students have entered these doors and left with a better understanding of Ordnance history and heritage and the values and traditions of the Army profession,” Letcher said.
Reflecting on the Ordnance Corps move from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to Fort Lee directed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision, the general noted it was a “long and complicated process that involved a lot of people coming together.” The schools at APG and Redstone Arsenal, Ala., were combined during the relocation to the newly established Sustainment Center of Excellence.
“Today, we culminate a journey set in motion more than 15 years ago,” Letcher said. “The move began in 2009 and was completed in 2011, but while the cadre, staff, students and millions of pounds of equipment settled into the new barracks and training facilities, the 14,000 artifacts gathered from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Anniston Army Depot, Redstone, Picatinny and Watervliet Arsenals remained crated and distributed across multiple locations on Fort Lee.”
It took an additional four years for the Army to approve construction of the Ordnance Training and Support Facility, which houses two state-of-the-art classrooms, a small arms vault, a research library and a climate-controlled high bay to house macro artifacts. Funding for the facility was obtained through the Center of Military History, who in Letcher’s words “worked countless hours” to achieve a successful move.
Charles Bowery, CMH executive director, also was among the event’s guest speakers. “As we marvel at this grand structure, I want to reflect on the man we are dedicating the facility to today,” he said. “(Col. George ‘Burling’ Jarrett) spent a lifetime studying, collecting and preserving military weapons and trophies.”
Jarrett was commissioned into the Army Reserve because he was considered valuable to the armed forces and he was sought out because of his superb knowledge on weapons, according to Bowery. Jarrett also assisted in establishing a Bomb Disposal School and joined the North African Mission as a technical expert on American munitions supplied to British forces.
“In 1942, he returned to Aberdeen Proving Ground to take charge of the Foreign Materiel Branch,” Bowery said. “This branch was significant as they evaluated captured enemy ordnance items and were responsible for the beginning of artifact use for research and development – directly tying into the mission of today’s OTSF.”
Bowery also mentioned that Jarrett retired from the Army Reserve in 1961 and joined a non-profit to raise funds to build the Ordnance Center of Technology, a predecessor to the OTSF.
Jarrett’s grandson, retired Army Col. Michael T. Travis, also spoke at the event and noted that his grandfather accomplished many things, but he was also a humble man and if someone’s name had to go on the building, Jarrett would be OK with it being his.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the plaque honoring Jarrett and tours of the OTSF.