Washington National Guard CFMO builds the future
Located on Byrd Street on Seminary Hill in Centralia sits a Washington National Guard Armory. The 133 ft. long by 99 ft. wide building shows its age, not because of the condition of the building, but the artwork on the building.
“Centralia could be described as very art deco,” said Col. Adam Iwaszuk, Construction and Facilities Maintenance Director. “That was just the sign of the times in the 1930s.”
Dedicated on August 5, 1938, the nearly 80- year-old building still serves the citizens of Lewis County today during floods, and is a rally point for the scouts of Charlie Troop, 1st Battalion, 303rd Cavalry Regiment.
This year the beautiful armory, that cost only $69,000 in 1938, is scheduled to receive a much needed $2.375 million facelift, inside and out.
“This building last saw a few minor upgrades during the 1960s,” said Iwaszuk. “We will improve the kitchen, bathrooms, office space, but also make the necessary improvements to keep one of our oldest buildings fully operational to support the mission of the National Guard to include state emergency response support for local jurisdictions.”
Centralia is just one example of the busy day-to-day operations at the CFMO.
Since 2011, the Washington National Guard has seen a quartet of new facilities open (Aviation Readiness Center, Combined Support Maintenance Shop, Information Operations Readiness Center and Pierce County Readiness Center). It has also seen major upgrade renovations on armories in Wenatchee and Montesano. Each location has a major impact on the future of the Washington National Guard.
“We invested more than $2 million into the Wenatchee armory,” said Iwaszuk. “The project included new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, LED lighting, new hot water system, new windows, new paint, upgraded restrooms and showers and much more.”
Montesano, the lone armory that serves the Washington coastal region, was in need of a roof replacement and upgraded facilities. Last year, the Washington Military Department invested more than $3.7 million into the Grays Harbor County armory.
“Currently our average age for an armory is 63 years old, which is well above the national average,” said Iwaszuk. “When we take on these types of updating and modernization projects, we can extend the life of the armory for another 50-60 years.”
These types of projects fall under what is considered, “Minor Works Preservation” or “Minor Works Program.”
Preservation projects are funded nationally in each state by a joint federal/state cost share to support energy upgrades, lighting and fencing upgrades to improve security, minor repairs and tenant improvements and parking lot repairs. Minor works program projects include these projects that are also funded through a federal/state cost-share, and are critical to modernizing facilities to meet National Guard mission needs. Many of these projects are necessary for the Stryker Brigade transition, a modern military mission that will sustain military jobs and positions in Washington.
“We are hoping to upgrade facilities in 24 communities across the state,” said Iwaszuk. “We will continue to modernize our Guard, that is my goal as CFMO and bring facilities to our organization that Guardsmen are eager to serve in.”
Modernization is sometimes much easier than just flat out replacing an armory. Currently with the back log of construction projects and dwindling availability of resources, the timeline for a new construction project could still be seven to 10 years.
“I am back at National Guard Bureau routinely, and if you don’t come in with realistic expectations, state money match and land purchased, you are most likely moved to the back of the line,” said Iwaszuk.
In 2016, the Washington state Legislature rescinded previous appropriated funding for construction of a new Tumwater Readiness Center in FY16 when the federal defense Military Construction Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) moved the federal funding to FY18. $31 million was approved by Congress in November 2017 to start construction of the project.
“This consolidation and upgrade for our Army Guard infrastructure is imperative to the ongoing success of our citizen soldiers,” Congressman Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said in a press release. “I’m glad to see the inclusion of the Tumwater Readiness Center in the final version of this bill, and look forward to other necessary investments made to facilitate the training and activities of our Washington Army National Guard.”
The new Tumwater Readiness Center will replace the outdated Olympia and Puyallup armories. The Puyallup armory will be purchased by the Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, and the proceeds of that sale will be allocated for procurement of land in preparation for a future MILCON project. Plans for the Olympia armory are still being discussed.
It was announced in April 2017 that the Washington National Guard successfully purchased 40 acres in Richland, Wash. for a new readiness center.
“This project replaces the Bellingham armory after the lease agreement for that facility was not renewed in 2012,” said Iwaszuk. “The new facility will provide a modern, energy efficient building and space for unit equipment and vehicles not currently available at older facilities.”
These are just two projects in a list of projects the CFMO is looking to develop and build. In the coming years, Iwaszuk hopes to see new National Guard barracks at the Yakima Training Center, a second Washington Youth Academy in the Tri-Cities and possibly a new Joint Force Headquarters building on Camp Murray.
“We are actively engaged and focused on making progress with the great projects we have planned ahead,” said Iwaszuk. “In terms of facilities, we are excited to see what our future holds.”