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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

State will close three armories in Bootheel

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY -- Southeast Missouri is slated to lose three of its National Guard armories through a restructuring initiative announced by the adjutant general of Missouri. The armory buildings in Charleston, Caruthersville and Bernie will be closed in December along with the armories in Neosho, Salem and St. Ann.

In addition to the closing of the six armories, the restructuring initiative includes the redesignation of the state headquarters and reorganization of several units. With the closing of the armories, the impacted soldiers are to be consolidated with nearby units.

"These changes to the Missouri National Guard are essential to enhance our readiness and capabilities for rapid action across a full spectrum of military operations to meet the military's needs to fight the global war on terrorism," said Brig. Gen. Dennis Shull, state adjutant general.

Charleston City Manager Dave Brewer described the closing of the local armory another loss for the community. According to Brewer, in his conversations with the National Guard, the closing was attributed to budget cuts.

"Charleston is losing one more thing that we don't like to see go," said Brewer. "If the National Guard is going to be expected to take up the slack for the volunteer army, it seems to me they are going to have to come up with more funding."

He said it was explained to him that the armory, which is capable of holding well over 100, currently provides facilities for 24 soldiers.

According to the National Guard's announcement in all instances, the soldiers and the units from the closed armory buildings will be moved to the closest armory in the vicinity.

An official who answered the phone at the Charleston armory today said although it's not certain, it's more than likely the Charleston soldiers will move to the Sikeston armory.

The spokesperson for the National Guard Headquarters of the 1140th Engineer En MOARING in Cape Girardeau was unavailable for comment Monday and today.

After the armory buildings are vacated, they will be turned over to the State of Missouri Office of Administration to direct the future use of the buildings. Brewer said he was told if a state agency doesn't take over the building, it may be offered to the city.

"We are closing some buildings. We are not closing units and we are not losing soldiers," the National Guard's Shull said. "We have approached this distasteful task with the intent of minimizing any negative impact on our soldiers and improving the strength and readiness of the units occupying the armory buildings to be closed. We will consolidate soldiers affected by the closures into the neighboring units, in some instances less than 20 miles apart, to minimize soldiers' travel time to drill."

The armory closings should save about $85,000 in annual operating expenses, plus millions of dollars in needed maintenance and repairs, said Dave Dillon, a captain in the Army National Guard who when not on military duty is the deputy director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Several changes in unit force structure are slated to take place over the next year, which the adjutant stated would include the restationing actions for several units as well as the creation of new units to Missouri's force structure. One proposal is the implementation of a new unit, the 880th Engineer Company (Dump Truck) to be located in Southeast Missouri in the vicinity of Dexter. Dillon said the federal government would pay for construction of this new armory.

Also as part of the restructuring, the Missouri Guard's Headquarters has been reorganized as the Joint Force Headquarters Missouri. This is designed to ensure a closer working relationship between the Army and Air National Guard as well as other military components.