Logo of the SC National Guard (File Photo)
By Mary Orndorff Troyan, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Congress has approved plans for $26 million in new facilities for the South Carolina National Guard in Greenville, and officials expect construction to begin by September.
The projects - a readiness center and a vehicle maintenance shop - were included in a defense policy bill that President Barack Obama signed last week. It is now more likely Congress will appropriate funds for the projects later this year.
The buildings will be affiliated with the new Greenville Army Aviation Support Facility and will bring jobs and economic activity to the Upstate.
"This is due to a lot of vision on the leadership's part within the Guard to recognize Greenville needed to have a greater presence," said Lt. Col. Andrew Batten, director of construction and facilities for the South Carolina National Guard. "There is a real untapped capability up there as far as being able to support the National Guard."
Guard officials started planning for the expansion eight years ago, Batten said Thursday. It has been part of the U.S. Army and Air National Guard's military construction plan for years, and was included in Obama's budget request this year.
The planned $18-million, 94,000-square-foot readiness center will be shared with Greenville Tech's aviation training program, which is providing about $5 million toward the construction cost. The South Carolina National Guard will transfer three units to the center, including 15 full-time National Guardsmen and 150 traditional Guardsmen, Batten said.
The planned $13-million, 50,000-square-foot maintenance facility for wheeled vehicles will house 70 full-time military technicians to do major work on vehicles from National Guard units from around the state.
The 111,000-square-foot, $26 million Army Aviation Support Facility is nearly done and is expected to be dedicated next month, Batten said.
Together, the three facilities at the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center will give Greenville a major role in helicopter training, vehicle maintenance and disaster response.
"These facilities are important assets for the South Carolina National Guard and long overdue," said Caroline Delleney, a spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, a member of the House Armed Services Committee that wrote the defense policy bill. "Both facilities will help ensure that the SCNG will be able to maintain personnel and equipment at the proper readiness level so they are able to respond to any contingency."
Batten said the long-term goal is for the site at the former Donaldson Air Force Base to become a regional aviation training site, where Guardsmen from all over the Southeast would come for training on things like hurricane response.
"The more the states help train each other, the more capability that provides everyone," Batten said.