By Nancy Gould, Hunter Army AirfieldAugust 9, 2012
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. (Aug. 9, 2012) -- About two hundred guardsmen, spouses, children, military and civilian community members gathered inside the new Georgia Army National Guard Readiness Center at Hunter Army Airfield for a ribbon cutting ceremony and the 78th Aviation Troop Command's blessing of the fleet ceremony for six CH-47F Chinooks helicopters, July 31.
The $8 million, 30,000 square-foot Readiness Center will provide the 160 Georgia National Guards Aviators and Soldiers who train there each month a spacious, state-of-the-art building to conduct training, and provide administrative, logistical and operational needs in support of their flight and maintenance missions. The construction took 14 months to complete and features a 1,500 square-foot maintenance bay, hazardous storage area and 109 parking spots within the lot with a separate motor pool for military equipment.
"These Soldiers now have a place that holds all their equipment, a place to train, and finally, a place to call home," said Maj. Barry Simmons, the Readiness Center commander. "The new Readiness Center will support Soldier readiness and training. It will also provide life support for our federal wartime mission and our state mission with tasks such as hurricane, flood and wildfire relief."
According to Simmons, three additional guard units will occupy the building -- 1st Battalion, 169th Combat Aviation Brigade Detachment for CH-47F Chinooks; 935th Aviation Support Maintenance Battalion Detachment and in 2013, 1st Battalion, 169th Combat Aviation Brigade Medevac Detachment for UH-60 Black Hawks.
The Logistic Services International team will conduct training for the new CH-47F model Chinook for the remaining National Guard Chinook units that will be fielding the new model of the aircraft, also based out of the Readiness Center, Simmons said.
The Army National Guard Readiness Center will also give the state another option for an Emergency Operations Center.
The Readiness Center completes the second component of the Georgia National Guard Aviation Support Facility; the first component, a $16 million, 86,000 square-foot Georgia National Guard hanger, Aviation Support Facility 3, was built on the airfield apron in 2008 to support aviation operations.
Throughout their years of service, guardsmen at Hunter have provided heavy lift aviation support across the United States, with combat support and combat service support to all branches of the military during major combat rotations, along with their stateside emergency relief mission.
The units have had multiple deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, or OEF, in Afghanistan, providing direct heavy lift combat support and combat aerial surveillance. After returning from OEF 4 and 5, they deployed to provided aerial relief after Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. In 2007, they provided aerial water drops while fighting the Georgia wildfires in the Okefenokee Swamp.
In 2008, they deployed to Louisiana and Texas and provided aerial relief in the aftermath of hurricanes Ike and Gustav. During OEF 09-10, they flew more than 3,500 combat hours without incident.
For their excellence, the Boeing Company awarded Detachment Company B, 1st Battalion, 169th Combat Aviation Brigade a 20,000 DH-47 Flight Hour Award for their service from 1992 to 2011.
When U.S. Representative Jack Kingston, from Georgia's 1st Congressional District, took the podium at the ceremony, he praised the Georgia Guardsmen for their commitment to their mission, their courage and their willingness to take risks. He said that throughout history it was risk-taking that made entrepreneurs successful in building helicopters and successful in their careers. He encouraged Soldiers and military leaders to keep up their cutting--edge aviation skills and their valuable service to this nation.
Kingston asked the group to not get discouraged with upcoming budget cuts, troop reductions, and the negative fiscal environment in which they serve.
"Keep doing what's right for this nation," Kingston said. "We'll get through this because we're the United States of America."