Alabama National Guard meets with Andalusia area leaders about future facilities partnerships

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Andalusia Mayor Earl V. Johnson listens during a meeting with ALNG and community leaders about possible future facility partnerships with the Alabama Guard. Photo by Maj. Andrew J. Richardson

ANDALUSIA, AL (08/14/2017) (readMedia)-- The Alabama Army National Guard's Construction and Facilities Management Office held a planning and programming document charrette (PPDC) at the City Hall, Andalusia, Alabama, August 14, 2017. Local government, education, and business leaders from the area were present to discuss how future Alabama National Guard facilities can be dual-construction, shared-space facilities to benefit the whole community while still serving the mission of the Guard.

"We want to continue our relationship with the city of Andalusia," said Eric Gerritson, economic development specialist for the Alabama National Guard. "Working partnerships is a big opportunity for us to bring men and women into the Guard," he said, emphasizing that partnerships are a large part of the Alabama Guard's recruiting efforts. Facilities partnerships are emerging as a trend in National Guard organizations across the country, said Gerritson.

"We're trying to get plans in place for the future," said Col. Philip Clayton, construction and facilities management officer with the Alabama Army National Guard. We want Andalusia to be "an enduring location of the Alabama National Guard."

One important benefit of having a National Guard facility in an area is increased higher education funds for residents, Clayton and Gerritson both highlighted. Soldiers and Airmen in the Alabama National Guard are eligible to receive thousands of dollars of semester toward a degree or certification as soon as they complete basic training under the new enhanced Alabama National Guard Education Assistance Program, recently passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.

"If you hire a Soldier, we've trained them to be on-time. They're going to be drug-free, and a hard worker," said Gerritson of the value of hiring Guardsmen into the local workforce. That's in addition to their job-specific skills on which the military trains each Soldier and Airman.

Gerritson highlighted the Alabama Guard's partnership with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency as an example of ways the Guard partners with other agencies. He mentioned the facilities that the Guard and ALEA share in Troy and Selma, which save money and provide value for both agencies.

The group discussed several ways to share facilities and costs including shared-use for gyms, vehicle maintenance, kitchen areas, parking space, and classroom spaces.

"The philosophy we have here is partnerships," said Andalusia Mayor Earl V. Johnson. "This is right down our alley. It really fits well to what we're accustomed to doing, and we've been successful with it. And we've done a lot of things that we otherwise couldn't possibly have done without partnerships."

The Alabama Army National Guard's Construction and Facility Management Office is holding several planning and programming document charrettes throughout the state in the month of August. "A planning and programming document charrette is an opportunity for the Alabama Army National Guard to explore design, planning considerations, and potential partner relationships with the local community," said Clayton. "In a PPDC, we look for effective solutions to facilities that support affordable readiness and support the host community. We further identify unique agency requirements and develop narratives to explain functionality and mission support requirements."