Barely three years after cutting the ribbon on its $22 million, 73,000-square-foot Flagler Palm Coast Readiness Center on the south expanse of Flagler Executive Airport, the Florida National Guard today broke ground on a 37,000 square foot building that will consolidate truck and weapons maintenance operations from two other units into the Palm Coast facility.
It’s the first maintenance shop to be built by the Florida National Guard since 2006. “It’ll consolidate two smaller shops creating a more robust, efficient operation that serves over 10 separate units. That translates to over 300 vehicles and trailers and over 900 soldiers that will be supported by this facility throughout the northern Florida region,” Maj. Gen. Robert Carruthers told a group of local elected officials, including every member of the County Commission, and others who’d gathered for the occasion.
It’ll also add 30 permanent jobs to the center and the area, said Lt. Col. Ryan Leonard, who oversees facilities across the state. “That’s huge,” Commission Chairman Andy Dance said, describing the additional facility as a big investment. “It says a lot about their commitment here to the county. They like it here.”
The units’ maintenance shops being consolidated locally are in St. Augustine, headquarters of the National Guard—that maintenance facility is too small now–and Titusville, where the National Guard has been leasing a facility for 20 years. The Palm Coast Readiness Center enabled the Guard to close a 24,000-square-foot facility it used to lease in Daytona Beach for many years.“This location was selected for the main strategic reason: it is proximity to all of those units in its key location,” Carruthers said. “It also allows us to close a leased facility that we have been spending a lot of money on in order to do the type of work that we need to do in this new maintenance facility.”
The $15.7 million shop will will take 12 to 18 months for construction. But unlike the more massive Readiness Center–which already has a 7,634 square-foot maintenance building and 1,533 square foot storage building–what will be called Field Maintenance Shop 9 will not be visible from Finn Way, the road that cuts across the southern part of the airport grounds and leads to the offices of the East Mosquito Control District, ending at the airport’s control tower. The parcel on which the maintenance shop is being built is at the far eastern end of the Guard’s grounds, just north of Laguna Forest Trail and west of Llowick Court.
The Readiness Center is home to three units, including a firing battery–which trains on the Avenger missile system, two of whose units had been positioned on the grounds of the future facility–and a headquarter unit, bringing hundreds of soldiers who drill on weekends. The facility currently has 17 active guard reserves, or activated National Guard soldiers.
Capt. Eric Grant, who is based at the Palm Coast armory, explained how soldiers drill–or what procedures they’d follow in actual combat situations: “There’s a vehicle all the way in the back right there,” he said, “on top is a Sentinel radar, and that radar picks up aircraft, and it sends that picture to those vehicles, those Avengers. Those Avengers will slew to that aircraft, they’ll lock on or IFF that aircraft [identify friend or enemy] see if it’s hostile or unknown or friendly and then they go through the procedure for engagement.”
Soldiers test on every single test of aircraft in existence, commercial or military, drill on whether and how quickly to engage, and so on. “What’s nice about having three units here is it just makes it logistically easier for all the units to come together,” Grant said, “so they can maintain a lot of the Avengers, a lot of the radars while they’re here on the ground.”
The County Commission this afternoon had scheduled a 1 p.m. workshop to go through its new committee and advisory board assignments for the year, and hurried through the meeting to make the ribbon-cutting. “If we can do any other favors for you, we certainly will,” Carruthers said in his brief remarks in what amounted to a just as brief ceremony.
“The new facility will also allow our maintenance professionals to focus on vehicle maintenance instead of spending so much time on facility maintenance, because our other facilities are really not up to par,” Carruthers said. “While this maintenance shop is a boon for the National Guard, it is important for us to acknowledge our Flagler County partners. Today’s groundbreaking would not be possible without your tremendous support from from all of you so that we can have facilities like this. With the gracious hospitality that you show and the tremendous supportive local community and government, it means a lot to us. We really can’t do it without you.”