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Ga. Garrison Training Center has big plans
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This is what the training centers barracks look like after a recent renovation. - photo by Denise Etheridge

Chances are newcomers driving around the Fort Stewart garrison may not notice when they cross onto the Georgia Garrison Training Center. The Georgia Army National Guard post is separate from Fort Stewart. Even so, the two installations share some common boundaries and have formed a cooperative partnership.

“A lot of people don’t know we exist,” GGTC Garrison Commander Col. David Lee said. “We encompass 745 acres.”

The training center is one of 110 National Guard Training Centers across the United States and its territories, according to GGTC public affairs. The garrison here transitioned from a collective garrison training center to a maneuver garrison training center-light in 2007. The training center officially was established 40 years ago during the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to Lee.

“President John F. Kennedy came here to address the troops,” Lee said. Soldiers marched for the late president’s review on Donovan Field, the colonel said.

Donovan Field is on National Guard property, Lee said. Therefore when Fort Stewart FMWR plans a Fourth of July concert each year, Lee first must grant it permission to use Donovan Field for the event. Likewise, 3rd Infantry Division troops wishing to train on the field also must get the training center garrison commander’s OK. This week, soldiers from the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID were training on Donovan Field. Some of those soldiers experienced a lightning strike several weeks ago, Lee said.

The training center accommodates Army and Air National Guard units from across the country and has served the regular Army, reserve units and the U.S. Marines, according to Lee. The garrison has not yet provided a training ground for the Navy or Coast Guard, but Lee said he’s working on it.

Lee said the training center plans to convert its north side battalion block into a contingency operating base for theater-immersion training. This area will replicate the overseas environment soldiers would encounter when deployed, the colonel explained.

But before the GGTC can convert that particular area into a COB, the garrison must wait for one of its tenants, the Warrior Transition Battalion, to move into new barracks now under construction, Lee said. The WTB construction project is slated for completion in 2012.

The colonel explained the GGTC agreed to a land transfer so the new WTB barracks could be built on Army National Guard property. In exchange for that piece of property, Fort Stewart gave the training center 40-45 acres, Lee said.

Along with Fort Stewart’s WTB, the training center serves as landlord to other tenants. Winn Army Community Hospital’s behavioral clinic currently is housed on the training center until Winn completes its expansion. The Youth ChalleNGe Academy, a Georgia National Guard residence program for high school dropouts, is on the training center, as well as the Marne Reception Center.

Lee said this tenant-landlord relationship is a win-win situation for the training center and Fort Stewart. Before tenant organizations move out, they renovate the training center buildings they have occupied, upgrading existing facilities for future use.

The colonel said the training center is a federal installation and therefore receives federal funding for renovations, which continues in phases. Lee said a number of barracks, mess halls, latrines and showers have been improved in recent years and additional improvements of garrison facilities will be made during the next several years.

The colonel plans to have one scheduled renovation to some of the older latrines and showers finished by next June. Lee said the training center will host the Girls Scouts of Historic Georgia when they celebrate their 100th anniversary in 2012. About 7,000 Girl Scouts are expected to attend.

Lee said the training center offers the use of its classrooms, dining halls and billeting to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations, like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, and the public. In addition to military training facilities, the National Guard training center has the Green Roof Inn and five distinguished visitors quarters.

Along with these facilities, the historic Minuteman Chapel graces the training center grounds. Lee said the chapel also has been renovated in recent years. He plans to install new audio-visual equipment in the chapel to enhance the religious services held there each week.

Lee said he has capitalized on the economic downturn by running his military installation “like a business.” Folks can hold conferences at the training center “and not break the proverbial bank,” he said.

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