World Class Training Set

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BLACKSTONE – The Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute officially opened its new $25 million state-of-the-art headquarters and education complex Dec. 4 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

“This facility is world class, and it is exactly what the world class Soldiers and officers of the 183rd RTI deserve to be able to continue to instruct students and support the commonwealth and nation as one of the finest Training and Doctrine Command Total Army School System school houses in the nation,” said Col. Marie Mahoney, commander of the 183rd RTI.

The 183rd RTI is made up of three battalions that teach a variety of military skills courses. The 1st Battalion focuses on basic infantry training, as well as training noncommissioned officers, Army Combatives and Rappel Master. This mission for the 2nd Battalion is basic transportation training. The 3rd Battalion teaches basic military police skills other general studies courses, as well as having responsibility for the Virginia National Guard Office Candidate School and Warrant Officer Candidate School.

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“The Governor is committed to ensuring the Virginia National Guard remains the premiere military unit that it is, and what better way than to have a state-of-the-art training facility in Virginia,” said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker. “This training facility is just one of many things that I think over the next several years are going to be exciting for the Guard.”

The 183rd RTI consistently receives very positive feedback from students, Guard Bureau and Department of the Army about the quality of instruction and instructors, but had in the past been told the classroom facilities were lacking and antiquated. Mahoney said the new facility could help increase the number of Soldiers that come through RTI because course managers are looking to send Soldiers for training with great facility in addition to great instructors. Approximately 1,200 Soldiers trained at RTI in 2008.

The ribbon cutting marks the completion of the first of two construction phases. Phase I began in Sept. 2008 and is a total of 83,554 square feet that includes the regimental headquarters building, an educational building with administrative and classroom space, an Officer Candidate School building and a separate building for an auditorium. The key features of Phase 1 are:

An approximately 8,000 square foot regimental headquarters building that house offices, administrative work space and a conference room for the command group, operations and staff sections and the headquarters company.

An approximately 61,500 square foot education building with administrative and office space for the RTI's three training battalions, classrooms, a library, learning center, maintenance classroom, medical aid station, supply area and fitness center.

An approximately 9,700 square foot Officer Candidate School Building with offices, administrative work space, conference room, classrooms and counseling areas.

An approximately 4,900 square foot 250-seat auditorium with stage.<br />
“This is a significant emotional experience for me because I know where we came from in 1981 to 2010 and this world class facility,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Howard “Skip” Halfacre, the commandant of the RTI. Halfacre was a trainee at the Virginia Department of Military Instruction in 1981 when it operated out of a small office at the Dove Street Armory in Richmond. He served as the deputy commandant in 1985 when the Virginia Military Academy operated out of a small building at Fort A.P. Hill with a staff of nine instructors. Now the RTI has a staff of 106 instructors, Halfacre said.

He also stressed that completion of Phase I was a team effort with the staff of the RTI, the Virginia Guard facilities office and the contractor doing the construction. “I know how hard it is to come to a day like this, and you don't do it by yourself, you do it as a team,” he said.

Phase II is currently under construction, which consists of 123,916 square feet of student barracks and is scheduled to be completed Oct. 2011 at a cost of approximately $30 million.

The educational building is a significant upgrade from the old facility, explained Lt. Col. Jimmy Kilbourne, the 183rd Regiment's operations officer. Space will not need to be shared among the three battalions and the regimental headquarters and every battalion has their own wing of the educational building with plenty of meeting and conference room space. The extra wing will be able to handle any overflow.

Students coming to the education building will be greeted with a flat-screen TV that provides basic course and reporting information. RTI Soldiers will work a reception desk to provide additional support and check in information. The stairway leading to the second floor features flags representing all 54 states and territories by order of which they joined the union.

Each wing includes administrative and office space for visiting and permanent instructors. Each classroom can hold up to 50 students and can be divided, and all classrooms have multimedia and internet capabilities for showing videos and presentations. The building includes a large tiered college-styled lecture hall. There is also a fully padded combatives-only classroom and a ventilated maintenance bay classroom for teaching subjects in the truck driver course.

Virginia units outside of the RTI may reserve conference rooms, classrooms and the auditorium if they request it through RTI operations.

The facility includes many upgrades in workplace quality, Kilbourne said. The staff will have a lounge that includes basic amenities. Cadre and staff have access to a cardiovascular room with treadmills and stair-stepping machines and just down the hall is a free weight room.

There is also an aid station room in the building that will be able to handle sick call, minor injuries and serve as a holding area for those with more serious injuries awaiting transport to a hospital.

Students attending courses have their own lounge that includes divided workspaces where students will be able to plug in their laptops and have access to wireless internet.

The OCS building has a classroom on the first and second floor with office space for the instructors. When completed, the OCS will have an open bay barracks next to the classroom building.

The stand-alone auditorium building can seat approximately 250. Like classrooms in the educational building, it is fully automated with multimedia capabilities and includes a wireless microphone and a speaker system. It also has a green room for waiting VIPs.

Parking will not be a problem since there is enough paved spaces throughout the complex for staff, students and visitors.

The completion of the complex will have a ripple affect on Fort Pickett. It will allow the RTI to turn Building 1695 back over to the installation and provide additional classroom space for units training.

The official opening happened Dec. 4 but there has been a class and a graduation ceremony already. The truck driver course used the auditorium for their graduation and a tactics course was taught in the educational building. The first official course will be the Army Basic Instructor Course scheduled for Dec. 6-16.

The design and construction of the building was mindful of the environment using green building practices, Kilbourne said. When fully completed the complex could obtain a Gold or Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The building has many energy and utility saving features built into it, including waterless urinals and motion detector lights.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Barton-Malow's Richmond office won the contract to design and build the facility.

(Story by Cotton Puryear, Virginia Department of Military Affairs, with additional reporting by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army National Guard public affairs)