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Reserve training center debuts

The center will employ 400 full-time personnel and combines work from three facilities.

By PAUL DE LA GARZA
Published February 6, 2005


[Times photo: Lara Cerri]
At a dedication ceremony at Armed Forces Reserve Center, named for Rep. C.W. Bill Young, military and local dignitaries gather.

PINELLAS PARK - Pentagon officials and Rep. C.W. Bill Young gathered Saturday to mark the opening of a $47-million training center for both U.S. Army Reserve and Florida Army National Guard units.

Young, R-Largo, hatched the idea for the Armed Forces Reserve Center, which bears his name, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

His aides said it marked the first time in the country that a training facility had been built solely to conduct joint military training.

"This is a little visionary. It's different," said Young, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Young said other states have been looking at the training center to see if they could build something similar.

The dedication ceremony attracted local dignitaries and Pentagon brass, including Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, and Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve.

Schultz said the facility symbolized America's commitment to readiness and to the military.

"This is a special project, for sure," he said. "This is more than just talk. We're putting our money where our mouth is."

Schultz said that in other parts of the country training facilities for Guard units have aged and are in disrepair. As a result, equipment can't be stored properly, and it creates a hardship on soldiers, he said.

By contrast, Schultz said, training in a modern, high-tech complex will help boost the morale of the men and women in uniform.

"When you have a first-class facility," he said, "people feel they are respected and appreciated."

Helmly said taxpayers get double-duty and more for their money with the Armed Forces Reserve Center. "It makes sense," he said.

About 112 reservists and 740 Guard members will report to the complex on weekends.

The 236,752-square-foot, eight-building center was built on 58 acres in the Gateway Center, a business-residential-industrial complex off Gandy Boulevard. It features administrative, training and maintenance buildings, conference rooms, classrooms, a physical fitness center, storage areas and a helicopter landing pad.

In addition, the training center will house a new medical command unit that will oversee 30,000 medical support personnel stationed around the world.

The center, built to support as many as 1,700 soldiers, will employ 400 full-time personnel.

Employees at the Lovejoy U.S. Army Reserve Center, Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa and J.F. Campbell National Guard Armory in Clearwater have been relocated to the new center.

Paul de la Garza can be reached at delagarza@sptimes.com or 813 226-3432.

[Last modified February 6, 2005, 08:33:22]


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