The Virginia National Guard Armory’s Clifton Forge Readiness Center was officially closed and the facility was transferred to the State Board for Community Colleges, the Virginia Community College System, and Dabney S. Lancaster Community College during a closure ceremony hosted by the Guard Wednesday morning.
The Clifton Forge Readiness Center was home to the 29th Division Band and Detachment 1, Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The 29th Division Band was the first unit to relocate to the new Roanoke Regional Readiness Center, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Aug. 4, 2017, in Troutville, Virginia, to officially open the new facility. Detachment 1 consolidated with the company headquarters in Lexington earlier this year.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support from Clifton Forge and Alleghany County, and I want to personally thank them for everything they have done for our Soldiers and families over the years,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “This was no easy decision. We are faced with tough realities with our facilities resources, and consolidating into regional readiness centers makes sense. We are excited about returning to the Roanoke area, but at the same time we are also sad to be closing the chapter of our direct involvement in such a wonderful community.”
Maj. Gen. Williams, addressing the audience at the ceremony, said he was experiencing a flood of memories being at the Armory. “Closing an Amory is a difficult thing. There have been a number of soldiers who’ve served here.” But, he added , “I can’t think of a better way to continue to support the Guard’s mission of higher education” than to turn it over to a community college.
Maj. Gen. Williams noted that the Guard would continue to work with the town of Clifton Forge as a partner.
DSLCC President John Rainone, noting that the 38,000 square-foot Armory was completed at an estimated cost of $3.8 million in 1990, promised that the College would continue to be “good stewards” of the facility, which contains a gym, classrooms and laboratories, a kitchen and office space. A food bank was opened there recently, and the offices of the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Commission and DSLCC’s Information Technology department have relocated to the Armory. The lab for the College’s Electrical and Instrumentation Technology program will also be relocating to the Armory.
In the event of a situation like severe weather requiring Guard assistance in the Clifton Forge or Alleghany County area, soldiers will still be able to rapidly respond with troops and equipment stationed in Lexington and Staunton, Williams said.
According to the Virginia National Guard Facilities Management Office, funding was secured for the Clifton Forge Readiness Center in 1982, and the new facility was intended to consolidate the functions of the aging and outmoded armories in Covington and Clifton Forge. Construction on the new site on the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College campus began in 1987 and was completed in 1990. At the 1992 dedication ceremony, the building was officially named the Gary Lee Miller National Guard Armory, in honor of a local infantry officer who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam. An alternate name of the building is the Hale Collins Convocation Center, in honor of a state senator from Alleghany County.
The relocation of the 29th Division Band was the first in a series of moves to the Roanoke Regional Readiness Center as the Virginia National Guard continues to develop the facility. Near term plans include setting up a field maintenance shop. A regional maintenance facility and additional troop units will transition to the facility in the future, Williams said.
The 29th Division Band consists of 34 enlisted Soldiers and one chief warrant officer. Its mission is to support the Virginia National Guard with musical performances around the state. A group of Soldiers from the band recently returned from Kuwait where they performed at the transfer of authority ceremony for the 29th Infantry Division as they ended their federal active duty mission.
In addition to the full band, the 29th Division Band contains 18 different musical performance teams. These include the concert band, marching band, ceremonial band, rock band, jazz ensemble, jazz combo, brass ensemble, brass quintet, saxophone ensemble, clarinet ensemble, flute ensemble, trombone ensemble, an F horn/euphonium ensemble, the fife and drum, the color guard and a sound reinforcement team.
The closure ceremony also included a presentation of the American flag and the Virginia state flag, both of which had flown outside the building. Maj. Gen. Williams received the state flag directly from the flag detail, then he presented it to Dr. Rainone. The flag detail presented the U.S. flag to Lt. Col. Edward Lewis, commander of the Headquarters Battalion of the 29th Infantry Division, and then he presented the flag to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Carlson, the last commander of the facility and commander of the 29th Division Band. The invocation and benediction were made by Chaplain (Maj.) Brett Johnson.