Rachael Van Horn
A ceremony marking the official opening of the newly remediated Woodward Armory was celebrated Friday by several local and state officials, but mostly by Woodward County Emergency Manager Matt Lehenbauer.
"I'm just so glad to finally be in here and have it opened," he said.
Friday afternoon, many officials wandered about on what used to be the drill floor of the Woodward National Guard Armory, a building that has served many National Guard units since being constructed in 1957.
Throughout Oklahoma, about 57 community armories are being targeted for remediation and repurposing, according to Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Scott Thompson.
After about five months of environmental remediation by the department, the armory will now serve the community as the home of Woodward County Emergency Management.
According to Oklahoma Environmental Programs Manager, Angela Hughes, the building cost about $55,000 to remediate and was less expensive than others in the state.
"I've seen them as high as $250,000," she said.
In all, some asbestos pipe wrapping, some floor tiles made of hard asbestos and some lead paint had to be removed from the armory before it could be officially utilized as the base operations for the local emergency management department.
The ceremony officially "christened" the 11,000 square foot building, originally built and completed in 1957 for its new use for the community.
"This is the best conversion I have seen so far on one of these armories," said Colonel (Ret.) David Brown of the Oklahoma Military Department. "And what you are planning to do with it means it is going to continue to serve the community as it has all these years."
Brown gave a historical review of the Woodward Armory that linked it back as far as 124 years to the first Oklahoma citizen soldiers that made up the whole concept of citizen soldiers as they are now understood in the National Guard and Reserves.
In his talk, Brown was able to draw a line all the way from the first official recognition of citizen soldiers and their needs in 1890 to the building the celebrants were standing in Friday.
The first unit to be assigned to the armory was Battery C of the 189th Field Artillery Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, Brown said.
From there, numerous field artillery units and infantry units used the facility as their base of operations in the state.
"Think about this. The legacy of the soldiers who walked n the floors of the armory is now written in the history books of the United States and of the world. For 100 years the citizen soldiers of Woodward have made a difference at home and throughout the world," Brown said. "It was highly appropriate that this armory with its history and heritage for service to the community be returned to the community."