By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneSeptember 30, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- A ceremony Friday will mark a milestone in the ongoing move of the Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School and its Soldiers and civilians.
The 59th Ordnance Brigade will case its colors at 3 p.m. Friday on the Redstone Activity Field. The colors will be uncased Oct. 12 at Fort Lee, Va., when the 61st Ordnance Brigade will become the 59th Ordnance Brigade at Fort Lee.
The school, a longtime member of the Redstone family, is moving to Fort Lee by Sept. 15, 2011 as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions.
"The move is under way," Billy Blount, special assistant to the brigade commander, said. "We've already moved personnel. We've actually moved a couple of pieces of equipment."
The two pieces of equipment were display items which satisfied the Fort Lee museum's request for lawn art from here. A Pershing missile, which had sat outside the 832nd Ordnance Battalion, and a 6-foot-tall Ordnance ball - the old Ordnance branch symbol shell-and-flame - were transported Aug. 25 and emplaced at Fort Lee the next day. Moving the hollow sphere from its former home outside building 3303 proved to be more challenging than envisioned because it was welded to a steel plate base.
And this is only the beginning of a massive move that will amount to 9.9 million pounds of hardware, more than 32,000 items - including all the military training equipment. They're not moving furniture or desk computers.
"The equipment movement is to begin in earnest next year," Blount said. "The biggest bulk of the equipment movement out of here is going to be July-August."
Seven civilians and five Soldiers, ranging from master sergeant to staff sergeant, have already moved to Fort Lee to serve as an advance party and establish a line of communication. The civilians include Dr. Richard Armstrong, who was the deputy to the brigade commander here before he left in mid-August to become the director of training for the Ordnance School at Fort Lee; and other senior staff members such as the security chief, members of the BRAC planning staff, and some course managers for various training departments.
The school has 104 civilian positions. Sixteen of the 104 civilians originally volunteered to leave for Fort Lee with their jobs. Sixty-three people who didn't volunteer have either been placed elsewhere on or off post or have retired. Twenty-five civilians have now agreed to move to Fort Lee by the end of June 2011, including the seven who are already there.
The school has about 255 permanent-party military. Seventy-four of these Soldiers will go to Fort Lee; and the remaining 181 will return to the operational Army.
"As far as military, they will move starting in April," said Lt. Col. Rashann Harris, the OMEMS chief of staff.
The school's training mission for the approximately 850 students continues at Redstone until June, when most of it begins at Fort Lee. Some training will start there as early as March or April.
Harris arrived June 15 from Mississippi State University where she served as the professor of military science over the ROTC program. She will be among the Soldiers returning to the operational Army when the school leaves next year.
"What they're doing is putting all logistics (schools) up at Fort Lee," Harris said. "It's going to be a good thing. I'm sure the community will miss the school because of the history it has here. But we're consolidating all the logistics schools which I think is going to be good for the future."
Col. Clark LeMasters Jr., commandant of the Ordnance School at Fort Lee, will be the presiding officer at Friday's ceremony. He will speak along with Col. Lee Merritt, the 59th Ordnance Brigade commander. Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and Redstone Arsenal, will also participate in the ceremony.
The 59th's Command Sgt. Maj. Angel Clark-Davis will hold the colors as they are encased by LeMasters and Merritt. Units assembled on the activity field will include HHC 59th, the 73rd Ordnance Battalion from Fort Gordon, Ga., 832nd Ordnance Battalion, Army EOD Training Battalion (Provisional) from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the Marine Corps Detachment. The 214th Army Ground Forces Band from Fort McPherson, Ga., will perform.
Those assisting with the ceremony include the Association of the U.S. Army, particularly retired Col. John Wright and retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Harold DeBerry, and the Garrison. The activities will include the casing ceremony, pass and review, community remarks and a reception.
The 59th Ordnance Brigade was constituted in the Army in 1943 as Headquarters Detachment, 331st Ordnance Battalion and activated at Camp Livingston, La. Brigade units had histories spanning three conflicts and 20 campaigns. On Oct. 15, 1992, the brigade was officially deactivated according to Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army permanent orders. It officially reactivated on Oct. 1, 1994 at Redstone Arsenal, when it merged with the Ordnance Missile and Munitions Center and School to become the Ordnance Missile and Munitions Center and School/59th Ordnance Brigade. Subsequently, the OMMCS commandant also became the brigade commander. The school was renamed the Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School/59th Ordnance Brigade on Oct. 3, 2002.
While the 61st Ordnance Brigade will become the 59th on Oct. 12 at Fort Lee, the former 59th here will be referred to as the 59th Ordnance Brigade (Provisional).
Blount, with the school for 29 years, plans to retire next summer. He knows the school's departure for Fort Lee will be felt locally, especially at events like the Veterans Day parade.
"I think the most significant impact for the community," he said, "is going to be the loss of all the military."