Whether it is a hurricane, winter storm, tornado or any man-made disaster that strikes, North Carolinians serving in the National Guard respond. Leaving their families and properties behind, they selflessly answer the call to serve their neighbors, communities, state and nation. This has been their solemn obligation for over three centuries.
Included in the ConnectNC bond referendum that voters will weigh on the primary ballot this month is $70 million dedicated toward the infrastructure needed to sustain this tremendous team of voluntary citizen soldiers and airmen.
North Carolina has 91 armories. Their locations were based on N.C. population and demographics of the 1950s when every armory was composed largely of residents from the surrounding community. A lot has changed since the 1950s.
The interstate systems prompted many North Carolinians to relocate. By the year 2020, 80 percent of the future members of the N.C. National Guard will live within 30 miles of an interstate. No longer do members of a Guard unit live near their armory. Quick response is critical when lives are in the balance.
Bond money would allow the strategic alignment of facilities, placing them closer to where Guardsmen live. It also would pay for the construction of two regional readiness centers, which would help consolidate units into centralized facilities.
Bond money also would be used to improve outdated armories and update equipment. Their average age is 47, and they are expensive to maintain. Armories also don’t accommodate the growing population of women serving in the ranks and don’t satisfy many of the American Disability Act requirements essential to one of our time-honored traditions of being a place of community gatherings, weddings and polling locations. They do not have adequate land for unit training. In some cases, they are an eye-sore. According to an independent analysis, N.C. armories are “failing” with only three out of the 91 rated as “good.” That same report estimates a shortage of 1.8 million square feet of space. Without action, these conditions will only worsen.
The benefits are many. Ultimately, state expenses for utilities and upkeep would be reduced. The new facilities would provide much-needed room for soldiers to train and work and offer opportunities for other public agencies to share space, stretching taxpayer dollars as far as possible. The regional concept for locating armories means a Guard that can more efficiently and effectively respond in times of emergency.
The ConnectNC bond issue would allow the Guard to remain the ready, reliable, responsive and relevant force on which North Carolinians have come to rely.
The time is right to invest in your National Guard, to support the men and women who selflessly serve in it and set the conditions for the long-term viability of our force and the facilities that house it.
Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk is adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard.