New home for Guard unit

Published 5:12 pm Friday, August 22, 2008

Company B, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 155th Combat Briigade Team, Mississippi Army National Guard has come a long way from the cramped quarters of the 1950s when they shared space underneath the old football stadium at Pearl River Community College.

According to newspaper records of The Weekly Democrat, prior to the college location the unit had no quarters at all.

That is no longer the case for the unit, which served in Iraq in 2005 and is on alert that it may go again, as it prepares to show off its new facility on Mississippi Highway 26 West from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, only a few hundred yards from the former armory built in the early 1960s.

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Sgt. Carley Davis gave The Poplarville Democrat a informal tour of the new facility last week.

One of the first things noticed on entering the building is a white “In Memorium” plaque from the old armory in memory of two of the unit’s citizen-soldiers.

SP/4 Rudolph P. Campbell and Pfc. Hiram S. Rester, Jr., died in a tragic vehicle accident Aug. 6, 1962, in Louisiana as the unit was returning from six months active duty at Ft. Polk. At that time the Poplarville unit was designated the 1065th Transportation Company.

Visitors to the building will find many features similar to the old facility along with other items that are completely new.

The new assembly room, in addition to being heated and cooled, is larger than its predecessor with better lighting. Davis estimates 200 people, with tables and chairs, could be accommodated there. The armory also sports an expanded kitchen facility. While the new facility is available for rent like the old armory there are restrictions on availability of the kitchen, he said.

Another long room is adapted for instruction, with tables and chairs and pull-down projection screens. The room is designed so that it can be partitioned into three smaller rooms if necessary. Another classroom is adapted with cubicles for use of laptop computers.

Davis says the building’s windows are hurricane-proof glass to withstand winds over 200 miles per hour.

While not designated an emergency shelter in case of a hurricane, if area officials requested it and approval was given through proper Guard channels, the facility could be used in that capacity, he said.

“It has to go through the proper channels and we have to be told to allow that,” Davis said.

The building has loading docks at the rear and there is ample space for storage of supplies. In addition, the armory has a generator to supply the entire building in case of power loss. Davis said the generator automatically comes on after eight seconds. Fuel for the generator comes from a 1200-gallon underground fuel tank.

Another addition to the building not found in the former armory is a gym room with various pieces of exercise equipment. Any Guard member, whether they live here or not, can use the gym by presenting their I.D. card and checking in, Davis said.

The grounds of the new armory are landscaped with ample paved parking the entire facility is fenced, and when not in use, remains locked. Landing space for helicopters is available on open ground at the adjacent Pearl River County Fairgrounds, Davis said.

In addition to tours of the facility on Saturday, Davis said there are plans to have a rock wall for kids to climb and visitors will be able to try a weapons simulator. Refreshments, including hotdogs and soft drinks, will be available.