Groundbreaking held for $5M revamp of National Guard facility

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Delaware National Guard’s Bethany Beach Training Site on Monday, to celebrate the start of construction for the Regional Training Institute for the 193rd Regiment (RTI).

“The 193rd provides military occupational specialty training to soldiers throughout the 54 states and territories that make up the Army National Guard, as well as our own specialized domestic operations training course that is attended by both soldiers and airmen of the Delaware National Guard,” explained Maj. Kim Undergren.

“I think this new building a good thing for Sussex County, bringing that income into the state,” Undergren said.

The 193rd RTI trains soldiers in emergency operations, civil disturbance and combat lifesaving. It is considered the premier technical school for signal support and communications. The RTI’s Military Academy runs Delaware’s Officer Candidate School. In 2013, Army Training and Doctrine Command named the 193rd Regional Training Institute an “Institute of Excellence.”

The 14,000-square-foot building being constructed at the Bethany Beach training facility will cost an estimated $5 million. It is energy efficient, including a geothermal heating and cooling system, and construction of the building is being completed by Delaware company EDiS.

“This $5 million project is not only good for our National Guard, but certainly for the town of Bethany, as well,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general for the Delaware National Guard. “Jobs for Delawareans and a professional training center for the entire National Guard to utilize — what a fantastic combination.

“We’re going to be a center of excellence here. We already are, but this facility will help us enhance that with state-of-the-art technology — a center of excellence where people will come from throughout the United States to train.”

“We’re bringing a lot of revenue in here. A lot of people will be coming in from all over the country spending money right here in Bethany Beach. Not only that, we’re doubly blessed with a Delaware company that won the bid for the project — more jobs for Delawareans. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Vavala spoke to how the Bethany site has changed over the years of service to the state and to the nation.

“This building is validation from the federal government and the military how important training the Delaware National Guard is,” he said. “I remember this place as a kid back in the ’50s, and it didn’t look anything like it does today.

“But today is such an awesome day. It’s not about bricks and mortar. It’s really about solidifying our future. This is all about enhancing our professionalism and proficiency of our Delaware National Guard. We’ve trained our soldiers and airmen here for well over 100 years, and that’ll continue into the future.”

He added that the facility will train soldiers, airmen and officer candidates, and will house the recruitment sustainment program.

“Our newest recruits will come here for their first exposure to our Delaware National Guard, and this is what they’re going to see. It’s a far cry from what I remember, where there were tents out there on concrete pads where the trailers are. The rest of the buildings were block buildings.”

State Rep. Ron Gray (R-38th) said that he was happy to attend the event and recalled how he has seen the site grow over the years.

“My parents had a beach house off 5th Street, and I remember you’d take tanks right down Route 1 here, run them across the beach. There’d be planes flying by. The public could go out and watch, and it was a really neat thing to see as a kid growing up here,” he said. “I’m happy to be here today.”

State Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th) also attended the event and said that, not only did he grow up three miles from the facility, he also mowed the lawn there when he was a kid.

“My father had the mowing contract for the training facility. I really learned how to work right here,” he said. “I’m so happy to have this facility in the 20th Senatorial District, a district that I was raised in, a place where I worked and was able to meet so many wonderful National Guardsmen.”

State Rep. Earl Jaques Jr. (D-27th), who himself served in the Delaware Air National Guard, said he was excited to be a part of the new facility’s groundbreaking and what it represents to the community and to the Guard.

“We say all the time, ‘The Guard is family.’ The heart of the family is right here,” he said. “The reason I say that is because, not only does the Army and Air Guard get to come here and train, but our families come here. They spend summers here. They’re able to use these trailers when they aren’t being used by the military. Our families know this place. Our children come for children’s events here. This is family here. This is what it’s all about.

“When you talk about family, think of this place, because that’s what it is.”

Vavala said the new facility will be a wonderful representation of the Delaware National Guard and will serve many generations to come.

“This building will be worthy of representing all of our members and will accurately reflect the pride and professionalism and service of our men and women here in our Delaware National Guard, the hometown force. This is another example that the Guard is making smart choices to reduce our footprint yet remain ready, responsive, respected and essential to our state and nation.

“The outdated structures that once stood here have been razed to provide space for the new building, saving us costly maintenance and utility bills each year,” Vavala noted. “This new facility makes great sense for us, for the state of Delaware and for the nation,” he said.

“Please keep our men and women serving so admirably — with over 400 of them in the Delaware National Guard serving in Afghanistan today — and their families in your thoughts and prayers.”