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Ask Matt ... about new Army training center

Q. What are they planning to build on the property next to Upward Elementary School?

The Wildcats are coming and are building themselves a new training center. OK, the Wildcats, so nicknamed, are the 81st Readiness Division of the U.S. Army Reserve based at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.

The new center will replace two outdated facilities – one in Brevard and one in Asheville. The facility to be built on Crest Road will contain a 31,274 sq. ft. training building for 139 soldiers on drill weekends. There will be space for 12 full-time workers and an equipment maintenance shop for wheeled and tracked vehicles – equipment that may one day provide logistical support for natural disasters.
William Ritter, the 81st Division’s public affairs specialist, said U.S. Army Reserve soldiers train 38 days a year. They will be fed at the facility but housed overnight in local hotels. The Army Reserve does more than disaster response.

“We had 10 reservists serving in my unit in Afghanistan in 2008,” said Henderson County resident and former infantry Maj. Robert Johnson. “They did the same work our active duty soldiers did.” Johnson recalled that reservists were called to Ft. Benning, Georgia, to train army recruits when infantry units based there were deployed overseas.
The Fort Jackson-based 81st Readiness Division supports more than 50,000 soldiers and civilians in a footprint that in¬cludes the Southeast United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Organized in 1917, they became known as the “Wildcat Division” because its members wore unauthorized emblems on their uniform sleeves. General Pershing reluctantly approved the wildcat patch adding that the unit must “live up to it.” The 81st has been called to duty in France in WWI, the Pacific in WWII and Vietnam. After 9/11, it deployed 28,000 reservists for the Global War on Terror.
The new ARC training building plus the enclosed vehicle maintenance facility will be almost twice the size of the National Guard Armory on Spartanburg Highway. It should be noted that although the National Guard and the Army Reserves have similar missions, the Guard falls under the control of our state’s governor while the Reserve’s chain of command begins with the President.
According to a published report, four potential sites were reviewed – three in Henderson County and one in Buncombe County. The 20-acre mostly wooded site that was selected fronts on Crest Road and has a common border with Upward Elementary School. Construction on the $24 million project is slated to begin in April of 2022 and take two years to complete.


On Veterans Day nearby, readers are invited to take a few minutes and visit Veterans Hall on the first floor of the Charles D. Messer Human Services Building on Spartanburg Highway (DSS side). The 100 ft. hallway is displayed with photos of service men and women, news clips, invasion maps, military equipment, and more. Posted is a photo of Radioman 1st Class Earl R. Corn who served at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. There are two Honor Air banners each with hundreds of signatures (thanks Jeff Miller). You can see the uniform worn in Korea by then Capt. Bo Thomas and a photograph of Bob Dole at the WWII Memorial. There’s a lot of great history there that takes you back to Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and other wars.