Wednesday, September 21, 2005

TOP STORY >> Guard will place new armory in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Cabot will have a National Guard Armory within the next five to 10 years, Lt. Col. Cary A. Shillcutt told members of the city council Monday night.
Shillcutt, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, said Lonoke County, with an armory at Lonoke, currently gets about $500,000 a year in federal funds, a number that would double with the establishment of the Cabot armory.

“We’re excited about the possibility — it’s going to be-come reality,” Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said. “We’re excited about what it’s going to do for our economy and the opportunity to hold a support battalion in our community.”

He said the Guard would be re-cruiting from the Cabot area. The new unit would be Foxtrot Company of the 39th Brigade Support Battalion.

Shillcutt said the area was home to numerous military personnel, including members of both the Arkansas Army and Air Force National Guard.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, commander-in-chief of the Arkansas National Guard, approved the notion this summer, and the Guard has begun looking for a space to lease while finding land upon which to build an armory.

“It usually takes five to 10 years to get an armory,” said Shillcutt, but the time can be greatly reduced if the city can help locate and acquire suitable land for one. He said the armory would need about 15 acres in an industrial area with utilities available. The location then must pass a comprehensive environmental assessment.
Once that hurdle has been cleared, the state’s congressional delegation can expedite funding for the armory.
Meanwhile, a new unit could begin operating first out of Beebe. The unit is a combat support service unit, which supports infantry with transportation, feeding and in other ways, he said.

With the new armory will come new jobs, he said. Existing Guardsmen will account for 50 percent of the total, but recruiters will be looking for the rest. The armory will be about 36,000 square feet, including 2,000 square feet of classroom space, a 6,000-square-foot drill hall and a kitchen capable of cooking for 140 people. The armory will be available for community events, Shillcut said. Meanwhile, the unit needs to lease 10,000 square feet or more.

“We’ll be asking for your support,” said the colonel.