CARLIN — Nine men and women took up shovels and threw dirt toward the audience in the first earth movement of what will become a new home for the Nevada National Guard.
“What a long, strange trip we’ve been on,” Brig. Gen. William Burks said, paraphrasing Jerry Garcia in his speech to the assembled movers and shakers of Elko County.
Burks recounted the history of former University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy, noting some of the forces behind its closure on Dec. 31.
When the planes servicing Elko were scaled back in size, firefighters coming to train at the academy had to send their gear on a separate flight, he said.
The death knells came one after another until the final closure.
“As the phoenix rises from the ashes,” Burks said, the Fire Science Academy will rise again as the new Nevada National Guard facility.
The shovels full of earth were around the spot where a new readiness center will be built, about 5,400 square feet in size.
The center will house offices, storage areas, a vault and a locker room, according to the Nevada National Guard.
Two other buildings are set to be remodeled, including the classroom building and the old firehouse, which will become a new vehicle maintenance building.
Turning the former Fire Science Academy into a guard facility has been three years in the works, Burks said.
Former UNR president Milton Glick and former Gov. Jim Gibbons had been working to help purchase the facility instead of building a new armory in Elko.
The funds to purchase the complex from the university, build the new building and modify the other two came from a congressional appropriation spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
The money came in a 75-25 percent split, with the federal government picking up 75 percent of the tab and the state paying the other 25 percent.
The total cost was $16.5 million, according the Nevada National Guard.
The money, appropriated in 2009, needed to be used within five years Burks said.
The purchase of the facility from UNR on June 29 worked perfectly for all the parties involved, Burks said.
Since June 29 was one day away from the end of the fiscal year, the university and the former Fire Science Academy made a clean budgetary break.
Not just for the guard
The facility has been used in the past by mining companies for their training and the guard hopes to be able to continue that multi-use, Burks said.
He said he also hopes to get the Project Youth Challenge centered at the facility.
Burks said he hopes the building becomes “the ultimate community center.”
While the campus itself is not large, the entire complex sprawls across 460 acres.
Although most of the National Guard personnel at the groundbreaking were part of the Nevada Army National Guard, the Nevada Air National Guard may also come to train at the new facility.
If all goes well, the facility may become a place for Guard members across Nevada to train.