Fort Robert E. Steiner to be closed

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fort Robert E. Steiner, Greenville’s 56-year-old National Guard Armory, is one of 13 armories across Alabama slated for closure. (File Photo)

Fort Robert E. Steiner, Greenville’s 56-year-old National Guard Armory, is one of 13 armories across Alabama slated for closure.

Staff Sgt. Chris Stinson of the 117th Field Artillery Battalion, which is based in Greenville, confirmed the closure on Thursday.

“The armory is closing, and our unit will be transferred to Fort Taylor Hardin in Montgomery,” Stinson said.

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According to Stinson, the unit’s first drill in Montgomery will be Jan. 6-8. Stinson said the full-time staff stationed in Greenville will make the move to Montgomery in mid-December.

Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, Alabama National Guard adjutant general, said a variety of factors, including the age and condition of the facilities, ability to respond statewide to disasters, cost analysis and the locations of units in relation to their headquarters were considered when determining which armories would be closed.

“Our understanding is that they found out it would be more expensive to fix the building than to move our unit,” Stinson said. “It’s an older building and it suffered some roof damage from some of the storms we have had, and the National Guard believed it would be best to send us to a more modern facility.”

An Alabama National Guard press release said the armories are being closed to save approximately $7 million.

“This was a very complex process and we didn’t take the decisions lightly,” Smith said. “We wanted to ensure that we gave our soldiers the best facilities and placed them in the right locations to provide the citizens of Alabama the best support in time of disaster.”

The other sites set for closure are located in Georgiana, Grove Hill, Hartselle, Heflin, Linden, Lineville, Millport, Moulton, Ozark, Thomasville, Wetumpka and Union Springs.

The press release said the closure of armories does not reflect a decrease in force structure as no units will be eliminated. They will simply be transferred to different facilities.

“We made sure to consider the communities whose armories will be vacated,” Smith said. “There are old armories across the state being used as churches, community centers, etc. We hope that communities will capitalize on these opportunities and use these facilities for good.”

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said he had been aware for four to five months of the possibility the armory could close.

“This is not a good thing but this is not a bad thing either,” he said. “I know this is going to bring something bigger and better. Right now I can’t disclose what that is. Right now, (the armory closing) is a sad thing but we will make sure to have our National Guard armory again.”

Stinson said there is a chance the Greenville unit will be relocated to the Camellia City in the future.

“We’re hoping to be back here in five or six years,” Stinson said.

Patty Vaughan contributed to this report.