BOTETOURT – The Virginia Army National Guard has formally opened a new Roanoke Readiness Center.
Despite shrinking budgets and consolidations, the National Guard was able to take over the former Botetourt correctional facility after it closed.
“We've always been looking for a way to get back in this vicinity,” said Maj. Gen. Tim Williams with the Virginia National Guard.
The 29th division band played at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Roanoke readiness center. Which holds a new future for our local men and women in the Virginia National Guard.
The former readiness center closed in 2009. The property was closed by Roanoke City for redevelopment. Until now, budgets have kept the guard from coming back, but Williams said they have been looking to come home ever since.
The Botetourt Correctional facility closed in 2010. In 2015, the Virginia National Guard was able to claim the building and make it their new home.
“It was an opportunity to re-purpose it. We got the facility, frankly, for free. So all we have to do now is to fight for the resources to renovate and add on,” Williams said. “But that's a lot easier to do then build a new facility.
Williams said so far they've secured $13 million in military construction funds for future development.
Williams said the center will definitely be a benefit because most of the soldiers in the Virginia National Guard in this area come from Roanoke.
“It's a phenomenal area to grow and expand our operations and really reconnect the National Guard with frankly some of its most historical roots, particularly with the 29th Division and the 116th Infantry Brigade,” Williams said.
The first to make it their home will be the 29th Division Band. The 29th Division Band recently relocated from Clifton Forge in a space located on the campus of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, and the space will be turned over to the college.
The relocation of the 29th Division Band will be the first in a series of moves to the Roanoke Regional Readiness Center as the Virginia National Guard continues to develop the facility. Near term plans include setting up a field maintenance shop. A regional maintenance facility and additional troop units will transition to the facility in the future, Williams said.
Sgt. 1st Class Jim Bradshaw with the Virginia National Guard, who also works for Roanoke County full-time, serves as a group leader for the 29th Division Band. He said the move will help lift a burden for the traditional National Guardsman like himself who serves two weekends a month. He says the presence in the Valley will also help recruit new people both to the guard and the band.
“I definitely see this as an opportunity to take advantage of that tap into a community that has those historical ties, and expand our footprint in terms of our recruitment recruiting growing a force,” Williams said.