By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneOctober 1, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Redstone Arsenal's past continues to reach into the future.
During a Sept. 20 ribbon cutting heralding in a new era for the Arsenal's badging and vehicle decal operations, the refurbished Visitor Center at Gate 1 on Martin Road east became symbolic of the way the Arsenal's rich past in rocket science and technology continues to influence the growth of its work force and capabilities.
The new Visitor Center, with renovations that carried it from its 1960s origins into the 21st century, still gives notice to history with a lobby area that features the original "Redstone Arsenal" gate letters, a 1963 telephone booth with the original rotary dial phone, and historic black-and-white photographs of Dr. Wernher von Braun, members of the German rocket team and the Arsenal of yesteryear.
In its own right, the new Visitor Center building 5105 is a product of its past - reclaiming its original home at Gate 1 and augmenting the efforts to provide efficient badging services at the Visitor Center at Gate 9.
"This is yet another milestone for the Arsenal," Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli said. "Fifty years ago, the Arsenal opened a badge center right here."
In 1961, the original "Control and Identification Building" at Gate 1 provided badging operations for the Arsenal population. In the 1990s, the Garrison closed the facility and moved badging operations to Gray Road across the street from the Directorate of Emergency Services. Along the way, the Visitor Center at Gate 9/Rideout Road was opened to provide temporary badging and decals for visitors and incoming new employees.
Now, with the new Visitor Center open, the Garrison offers both visitor and employee badging and decals at both the Gate 1/Martin Road east entrance and the Gate 9/Rideout Road north entrance. The Gray Road badging and decal office has been closed.
The modern Visitor Center is an indication of "what we're doing to set up for the future," said Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers, who recently assumed the positions of senior Arsenal commander and commander of the Aviation and Missile Command.
"As we grow ... we want to take care of our people. That's what it's all about. This building is indicative of thinking ahead to the onslaught of people it will accommodate (due to Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations) ... as we continue to grow and continue to improve."
Services at both visitor centers are provided by Alutiiq employees, who are supervised by team lead Nichole Akins. Gate 1 Visitor Center employees - known as data entry clerks - include Karla Usrey, Amanda Logan, Meagan Morris, Cindy Lopez, Jada Roberson and Kyle Lucas.
"With these two visitor centers, we now have all badging operations at the perimeters of Redstone Arsenal," Akins said.
The Gate 1 Visitor Center features both an Army emblem and a NASA emblem on opposite ends of the building's front. The exterior of the 3,155-square-foot building is enhanced with split-face cement blocks, a green metal pitched roof, two front overhangs at the entrances, plenty of windows and 72 parking spaces.
Inside, the lobby has seating for 87 people. There are five standard processing stations and one handicap accessible station.
"Start to finish took over seven months," said Rick Maranville, a quality assurance inspector with the Garrison's Directorate of Public Works who oversaw the Visitor Center project.
"We gutted the existing building, and put in new walls and plumbing, and new electrical and mechanical systems. Everything is new, from the bathrooms to the sidewalks."
Even the historic pieces have a new look. Both the "Redstone Arsenal" gate letters and the rotary dial telephone have been refurbished.
And, about that rotary dial phone - Garrison commander Pastorelli said it does, indeed, work.
"We tested it by calling down to our headquarters," he said.