National Guard facility closed since 2014 tornado
After nearly a five-year absence, the Mississippi National Guard Company Alpha of the 150th Brigade Engineer Battalion is coming home.
A ribbon cutting celebrating the grand reopening of the National Guard Armory in Columbia will be at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The former armory was destroyed by an F-3 tornado on Dec. 23, 2014. Since then the company has been operating out of Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg.
The 26,000-square-foot, $15 million building is built to withstand winds of 120 mph and the roof is rounded to deter any potential wind damage. In addition the building is state of the art with its heating and air conditioning to be very efficient with energy and water costs.
Mississippi State Energy Manager-Energy Engineer, Michael Myrick, said the armory is one of the top armories in the state with all of the up-to-date technology installed.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Gentry is over the company of 112 soldiers in Columbia. He said four soldiers work there full-time Monday through Friday. One weekend a month the soldiers in the company meet for weekend drills.
The armory normally handles a company of soldiers. However in case of an emergency or natural disaster the new building can handle up to a battalion.
In addition to an open area where drills are conducted, there are several classrooms and a gym.
The kitchen area has a lot of equipment that was able to be salvaged from the former armory, saving money, Gentry said.
The ribbon cutting Saturday holds special significance, first by bringing Company A back to Columbia and also the soldiers just returned from deployment in Kuwait a couple of months ago. Tied in with the ribbon cutting this weekend is also the first weekend drills will be held in the new facility.
The great area on the first floor has been set to be partitioned if needed, eventually the hall area will be able to be rented.
“Columbia has been very good to us. This community has a love and respect for the military,” Gentry said.
Pictured Above: The open area for drills is seen Tuesday inside the new National Guard Armory on U.S. 98. | Photo by Susan Amundson