Guardsmen open new training center


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ST. CROIX - The V.I. National Guard held an opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting Friday for its Readiness Training Institute, which high-ranking officials say is a clear indication that the guard has been marching in the right direction.

The 47,000-square-foot training center and the 57,000-square-foot Joint Force Head Quarters facility, that is still under construction, mark a turning point in the guard because it is the first construction project in the territory under the purview of the National Guard in more than 20 years, according to Maj. Gen Renaldo Rivera, adjutant general of the V.I. National Guard.

He said the construction project for the training facility and nearby headquarters were funded completely by the federal government, according to Rivera. The V.I. National Guard was able to secure the money from the U.S. Defense Department before cost-cutting measures were implemented, he said.

The $20 million training facility includes classrooms, medical screening room, distance learning center, offices, a conference room, a gym and housing for as many as 60 students. The training center will provide an opportunity for the local guard to extend invitations to others from across the Caribbean and the United States to use the facility.

Command Sgt. Major Dennis Dickie, commandant of the 210th RTI, said he welcomed those in attendance on behalf of the guardsmen who came before, those who had contributed in the organization of the training center and the many students who will use the center in the future.

"When you tour the facility, do not just look at the new building, but think of the soldiers who will be going through training here to make the future bigger and brighter," he said. "Those who will replace those of us who are here now."

Rivera said he was happy and filled with gratitude with the opening of the training center and proud because it is something that encourages professional development for the staff and perform their duty.

Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis commended Retired Maj. Dalton Jones for the role he played decades ago as the facilities manager for the V.I. National Guard.

"He worked hard, and this is the fruit of his labor," Francis said.

Jones said he joined the guard when they owned none of their facilities in either district but he knew in order for the guard to grow, it had to expand its physical locations.

"We had a long way to go back then, and we have done a lot over the years," Jones said. "I think we have accomplished all that we need at this point. The only addition may be to purchase land nearby that can be used for additional outdoor training."

More than 100 guardsmen, retirees, government officials and community members took a tour of the facility following the ceremony.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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