Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

TOP STORY >>Big check for Guard

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Arkansas Army National Guard members from F Company, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Foreign Support Company, who are serving full-time in Cabot in temporary shelters, have always received tremendous support from the Cabot community.

Witnessing Gov. Mike Beebe present a $100,000 check to the city Thursday to help pay for the land on Hwy. 367 that will house their 34,000-square-foot permanent armory location only sealed the deal.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, from the day we stepped foot here, even in the rental facility, that it (a permanent location) was going to happen. It was just a matter of letting it run its course,” Capt. Isaac Shields, F Company commander, said.

“The overwhelming support all the people and vendors have given has shown us that Cabot does want us here and will help us help them,” he said, adding, “they understand that we’re here for them.”

Construction of the new Cabot readiness center, which will be the headquarters for the unit, will cost approximately $8 million, all of it eligible for federal funding within the next five years, said Brig. Gen. Larry Haltom, deputy adjutant general for the Arkansas Army National Guard.

The Guard’s goal is to have the new facility constructed by 2010. Its temporary headquarters are nearby.

“This project is the number one priority on the Guard’s long-range facilities plan,” Haltom said.

“The funds to purchase the land is just one step in the process and hopefully it (construction of the actual armory) won’t be eight years later, but it won’t happen tomorrow either,” he said.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams had asked Beebe for $100,000 from his discretionary fund to help pay for the 15.5 acres in the industrial park on Hwy. 367 where the armory will be built, but the amount of the check was not known until Thursday’s ceremony at the Cabot community center.

Beebe said the check, almost all of it coming from tax dollars, is a marriage of two “spectacular” things – the community and the troops.

“This marriage between the city and National Guard is appropriate and one we all honor, so we celebrate by providing this check,” the governor said.

“It’s a marriage we are all proud of,” he added. And with the possibility of federal funds helping in the construction, Beebe said the new armory will allow the unit to train in an enhanced facility.

“It also gives easy access to the soldiers and their families, is more convenient, and the updated aspects of today’s armory allow for a bit more sophisticated training than the armories of yesterday,” the govenor said.

The state has not built a new armory since September 2005, when a $4.25 million facility went up in Warren.

As members of the Guard, soldiers can choose where they want to work and which unit they want to be in, Shields said.
“This is an incredible unit and an incredible community. I think it speaks volumes about the community to have so many come from out of state to be here, that this is where they want to work,” he said.

While many soldiers assigned to F Company live in and around the Cabot and Beebe area, others, like Shields, live out of state; he lives in Oklahoma.

F Company’s primary mission is to support the infantry battalion. With a working/fighting force of 127 soldiers, the company is comprised of mechanics, welders, truck drivers and other support personnel using approximately 120 pieces of equipment.