EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSWV Guard Announces Major Infrastructure Improvements
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Videographer: Troy Morgan
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Aug. 19, 2013 10:33 PM EDT
Updated: Aug. 20, 2013 10:07 AM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The West Virginia National Guard rolled out plans Monday aimed at securing the guard's future in the state.
In 2005, a report found a few major downfalls of the Guard's capabilities and infrastructure here in West Virginia. Since then, the state's been trying to compensate for the issues and make improvements. Monday, it announced the development of a drop zone, air landing strip, and bridge that will fix the problems for good to help the Guard units stay put.
The C-130 aircraft used by the West Virginia National Guard are impressive. But as budget cuts have threatened the Guard here for the past few years, many have worked hard to make sure those planes and Guardsmen are able to stick around.
"You know, West Virginia's always been known as having the highest per capita veterans and soldiers in any war or any time of need in this country, so we want to continue that tradition," said Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
Afer all, the Guard supports thousands of jobs and has a roughly $89-million impact on West Virginia each year. So the state, along with the Kanawha County Commission, and Yeager Airport Authority, worked together to find funding to address some major projects an audit found the Guard needs.
That includes a C-130 landing strip in Logan County and a drop zone for flight training. The biggest piece of the pie is a $10 million bridge over the Elk River, coming off the interstate near the Mink Shoals exit and providing secure, direct access to the base. The additions will help the National Guard train and do their jobs even better day in, day out.
"This allows us to train in the most realistic environments possible and allows us to bring other units to train in those realistic environments, where we can be competitive to be that national asset, while also more importantly giving these men and women the best training and best opportunities to come home safe to their families," said James Hoyer, West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General.
The projects are also investments the state believes will convince the federal government that the West Virginia Guard units, and the 130th Division in Charleston, should stay put for good.
"I think by satisfying what our deficiencies were, will say at least we've come forward, addressed the problems you identified, and now we're ready to continue to serve," Governor Tomblin said.
Of course, the Guard says having better infrastructure in place will only help improve their response to community disasters, like flooding.
The new landing strip and drop zone are already in place. Construction on the new bridge near Coonskin Park should start soon, with the goal to get the project done by 2015---in time for the next federal audit.
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