SC Armories are Crumbling, Vulnerable to Terrorists, Putting Soldiers at Risk

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South Carolina National Guard soldiers are welcomed home during a ceremony Dec. 12, 2019.
U.S. Army National Guard soldiers with the 1221st Engineer Clearance Company, 122nd Engineer Battalion, 117th Engineer Brigade, South Carolina National Guard are welcomed home during a ceremony Dec. 12, 2019 at the readiness center in West Columbia, South Carolina. The 1221st Engineer Clearance Company returned from a nearly nine month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve where they provided route clearance support and engineer projects throughout Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait. (Tracci Dorgan/South Carolina National Guard)

In 2005, when former S.C. Adjutant General Bob Livingston went to the Bamberg armory, he saw a startling site.

It was raining, and a soldier was walking through the armory with an umbrella because there were so many leaks in the roof.

"It was comical, but sad at the same time," Livingston said. "But it illustrated what sad shape the armories were in."

Armories serve a number of functions.

They are buildings and secured areas where weapons and equipment are stored. They house offices for commanders and support staff. They also serve as gathering places for Army National Guard soldiers when they come together to train or deploy.

Today, 16 of the S.C. Guard's 63 armories are listed as "poor" by the U.S. Army, and many more are considered only "fair" and may drop to "poor" soon, according to Col. Brigham Dobson, the S.C. Guard's Construction and Facilities Management Officer.

They need new roofs, electrical system, heating and air systems, and security measures. Bathrooms and offices need to be upgraded and parking lots and sidewalks repaired.

Rundown and outdated armories hurt the Guard on several levels, Dobson said.

-- They hinder recruitment, because potential soldiers don't want to work in rundown facilities.

-- They adversely affect retention of soldiers for the same reasons.

-- They negatively impact the morale of the soldiers who do join and stay.

-- They don't have adequate bathroom and shower facilities for the growing number of female soldiers.

-- Of most concern, the old armories don't have proper security systems that would prevent terrorist attacks, Dobson said.

"The armories don't support the soldier of today," he said.

The legislature has been allocating $1.55 million annually for armory renovations, and have been adding one-time money for the past few years.

So far, armories in Greenville, Greenwood and Lancaster have undergone full renovations. Workers are now conducting interior demolition on the Florence armory. The Sumter and Easley armories are in the design phase.

But armories in Andrews, Barnwell, Conway, Dillon, Eastover, Greer, Hemingway, Laurens, Marion, McCormick (scheduled for demolition), Orangeburg, Saluda, Seneca, and Timmonsville also need overhauls.

And many of the remaining 47 armories also need work to keep them off the "poor" list.

So the Guard this year is asking for an additional $3.5 million. That would allow the renovation of two armories a year, as well some less comprehensive renovations .

"If you can't do a complete renovation, you might be able to do a smaller job that would keep an armory off the 'poor' list," Dobson said. 

This article is written by Jeff Wilkinson from The State and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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