Rector Armory Will Be Closed
It's now official -- the Rector National Guard Armory will be closed.
The facility will shut down Oct. 1 after the Arkansas National Guard has removed its property from the building. The facility will then be turned over to the City of Rector to use as it deems appropriate.
Rector mayor Teresa Roofe learned of the decision Monday. She told city aldermen she is disheartened by the decision, but it is one that has been made in the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
According to a press release from the Arkansas National Guard, the agency intends to return seven readiness centers most commonly referred to as armories to their city governments as "part of a cost-saving plan to meet the reduced operating budget of the Army National Guard, which is the result of a nationwide reduction in defense spending."
The Guard was looking to shut down eight Arkansas armories including Rector, Berryville, Blytheville, Brinkley, Crossett, Helena-West Helena, Wynne and Walnut Ridge. These armories were chosen based on the age of the facility, the number of soldiers assigned and the success of the recruiting area.
"These locations were originally built in the 50's and 60's when the population was more rural," said Col. Greg Bacon, Arkansas National Guard chief of staff. "Since then our state's demographics have shifted and now we are forced to realign our readiness centers in order to maintain strength."
Walnut Ridge was the only armory allowed to remain open and the 27 soldiers from Rector will now join the 74 soldiers at Walnut Ridge to meet for drills, store equipment and train. These cuts will reduce the number of National Guard armories in Arkansas from 62 to 55. The reason Walnut Ridge was left open is because, "at this time we don't want to jump out of both communities all at once," Arkansas National Guard Public Affairs Officer Joel Lynch said.
Officials said the fiscal belt in Washington is tightening and the Arkansas division of the National Guard is still under scrutiny, so more cutbacks in the future are feasible. "We don't know what the end of the road will look like," Lynch added.
Representatives from the Arkansas National Guard met with city leaders at the Rector armory May 12 to discuss the closure with community officials and listen to their opinions, which they then reported to Gov. Hutchinson. Several local residents shared opposition to closing the armory, but the Adj. Gen. of the Arkansas National Guard, Maj. Gen. Mark Berry, told the community leaders he has to look at the buildings from a business perspective model.
"These buildings aren't being utilized like they used to be," he said in a press release. "Soldiers mostly drill at their headquarters unit in other cities or at Fort Chaffee or Camp Robinson. It does not make good business sense to keep a building open that is not being used very often. The funding is just not there."
State Rep. Joe Jett of Success said he expressed extreme displeasure to the governor over the potential closing of the Rector armory. "Once again the rural area takes a hit," Jett said. "It basically comes down to money, and it seems the further you get away from Little Rock, it seems like politicians dismiss the area, and it doesn't sit well with me."