RECTOR, AR (KAIT) - The Army National Guard is looking at closing the armory in Rector and several other smaller armories in the state. These decisions will be made because of anticipated federal cuts in the future. 95 percent of the guards funding comes from Washington.
A public meeting was held Monday morning with National Guard officials and community and county representatives. In addition, representatives from state and local elected officials are were there.
Currently the armory has about 45 members on drill weekends with two full time people. Local officials are concerned about the armory closing and want it to remain open in case of natural disaster and the economic impact. Currently the unit is at Fort Chaffee for annual training.
Speaking to a group of about 50, the adjutant of the Arkansas Army National Guard, Major. General William Wofford explained why the Rector armory was on a list for possible closing.
"It's a business decision," Wofford says. "The recruitment up here is very low to offset the expenses. Last year we recruited zero." Wofford says they have recruiters in the area but those eligible are not joining and many people can not because of low ASVAB test scores or other reasons such as criminal records or lack of a high school diploma.
General Wofford's presentation also showed only 1 unit member lives in the county. Rector Mayor David Freeman says these numbers aren't correct.
Freeman, "I can in my head think of 3 or 4 or 5 that have joined this National Guard unit from right here in Rector just in the last year or two."
If the unit was pulled out, troops would have to drill in Walnut Ridge and the city would get the building to do with what ever they wanted to. However, the question on having to drive to other towns to drill was brought up several times.
Kristie Hayes who's husband works full-time for the guard says the turnout surprised and pleased her.
Hayes, "The armory's always been here and they are very supportive of their military and deployment after deployment they have been her for our soldiers."
Wofford's figures show that it costs about 19 thousand a year to run the building. State Representative Mike Patterson and State Senator Robert Thompson said they could find the money somewhere and urged that the building not be closed.
Patterson, "It's a Hundred Eighty Six miles from Little Rock and we need something up here in this area to house the National Guard.
During the ice storms the armory was used to house soldiers from other units that came to assist the county. If it closes there isn't a unit closer than Walnut Ridge or Paragould for the Northeast corner of the state.
General Wofford says the large turnout shows the strong community support.
Wofford, "I need your recommendations so when we go back to the governor we can make an informed decision."
The general stressed to us that there is not a "hit" list. He says he and his troops are simply gathering information at this time. Once the information is collected he will go back to the governor to see what the plan will be.