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The Ordnance Schools’ Move to Fort Lee

The Chief of Ordnance and Commanding General of the Army Ordnance Center and Schools, Brigadier General Lynn A. Collyar, and the Regimental Command Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major Daniel Eubanks, presided over the casing of the regimental colors at the original Home of Ordnance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, at the conclusion of the Ordnance Week activities in May 2009. This final ceremony was fittingly conducted in front of the Ordnance Headquarters, affectionately known as “the Stones.” In September 2009, the unfurling ceremony was held in conjunction with the 9/11 memorial service at Fort Lee, Virginia, not only establishing the new Home of Ordnance but also calling attention to, and reflecting on, our fallen Ordnance Soldiers.

Many articles have been written about the state-of-the-art facilities on the new Ordnance campus. This article focuses on the people and organizations, especially the school base closure and realignment (BRAC) teams, that for the past 5 years have been designing, building, equipping, and moving to make the new Ordnance School campus a reality.

Preparing to Move to Fort Lee

The Ordnance Center and Schools began preparing for the move to Fort Lee after the BRAC Commission announced its congressionally mandated decisions in May 2005. The commission directed that the Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School at Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Ordnance Munitions and Electronic Maintenance School at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, consolidate into one Ordnance School and merge at Fort Lee by 15 September 2011.

When the move was announced, Major General Vincent Boles was the Chief of Ordnance. Under his direction, each school quickly organized teams to implement the BRAC directive. The BRAC teams responded to hundreds of design details and requests for information; designed and populated equipment spreadsheets; designed room data sheets detailing end-user requirements from square footage to audio-visual details; and managed equipment inventories, movements, and deliveries. While they continued to train Soldiers, instructors developed course movement strategies based on the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) mandate that schools continue to train their annual loads.

In addition to the school teams, Major General Boles assigned me to lead the Ordnance “torch party,” which started with one person but over time grew with the assignment of several warrant officers, noncommissioned officers, and contractors. The torch party worked at Fort Lee, teaming with Norfolk District Corps of Engineers representatives, Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) BRAC construction and synchronization teams, Fort Lee garrison staff, TRADOC and Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management BRAC representatives, and seven construction companies. Much of our success can be attributed to the endless hours of dedicated effort, constant and frequent communication, and attention to details of these teams that all worked with the goal of representing end-user requirements and ensuring the new facilities meet Ordnance Corps missions for the next 50 years.

In 2006, with no manuals in hand on how to execute BRAC, the newly arrived Chief of Ordnance, Brigadier General Rebecca S. Halstead, directed me to build a strategy around lines of operation. These lines of operation—construction, funding, personnel, transportation, and equipment—continue as the areas we track and brief to the Ordnance School leaders during monthly BRAC in-process reviews.

In 2006, the focus was on the “charrette” process. During these meetings, representatives from every organization imaginable, including utilities, fire departments, force protection, environmental, the National Park Service, information technology, architects, engineers, and end users, met to translate and validate user requirements into individual building designs and a campus with more than 20 facilities. While looking at the day in the life of a Soldier and standardizing classrooms and bay structures, we compiled lessons learned that quickly became the foundations of the charrettes that followed our work through the design reviews. From these charrettes, architecture and engineering firms produced requests for proposals, architectural renderings, and floor plans, giving us the first glimpse of the buildings, the schools, and the future.

Preparing for Construction

In the early summer of 2007, trees were felled as the infrastructure, utilities, and road grids began taking shape on the 300-acre campus. In November, Colonel Michael T. McBride, Ordnance Center chief of staff, planted the regimental flag, establishing the Ordnance Center’s presence at Fort Lee. During this same period, the BRAC teams, working with the Corps of Engineers and Colonel Edward Gully, special assistant to the CASCOM commander on BRAC, began the contract award process. The first contract was awarded for the Tactical Support Equipment Department (TSED) facility, the first three of six barracks, and the battalion and brigade headquarters.

The next award was for the second largest dining facility in the Army, with a capacity to feed 3,600 Soldiers in 90 minutes, followed by the award of the north range vehicle-recovery range facilities and five welding and training classroom-and-bay facilities. Construction awards continued through 2010. As of May 2010, the only remaining awards were for the explosive ordnance disposal range and classroom complex, the climate-controlled storage facility, the chapel, and the fitness center.

The campus landscape continued to change as construction companies established their presence with temporary office structures and lay-down areas for their construction equipment and building materials. Soon after construction was underway, the BRAC teams re-engaged with reviews and awards of furnishing and equipment packages.

Beginning Instruction at the New Campus

In June 2009, the TSED facility was the first building to reach its building occupancy date. This presented new challenges to the BRAC teams, which had only 90 days to furnish and equip the building for training according to school-developed course move schedules. The outcome was a thumbs-up for all as the TSED training started in August, right on schedule. Since then, we have continued to refine our occupancy process. On 6 July 2010, training began in the five central campus phase-1 buildings, with Soldiers being housed in barracks two and three.

From the start, the BRAC staffs at both Aberdeen and Redstone have been involved in accurately identifying requirements, design, contract reviews, equipment movements, and establishing new procedures for the consolidated Ordnance School.

Special thanks must go to the military and civilian team assigned to the school—those who changed duty location and jobs and even those who retired in lieu of moving to Fort Lee. Throughout these years, with BRAC as an additional duty, the Ordnance School cadre and instructors have demonstrated true professionalism by continuing to remain engaged throughout the lengthy process and working to ensure the facilities supported the desired end state.

Saving the best for last, I would be remiss without offering a very special thanks to Colonel Dan Reilly, commander of the 61st Ordnance Brigade and Ordnance Mechanical Maintenance School, who for the past 2 years has been the right leader to execute the first moves, establishing the brigade presence for command and control and the first training department. His leadership and management skills, as well as his can-do attitude, are clearly the reasons why the training at the new Ordnance School continues on schedule.

Gayle A. Olszyk is the deputy to the commander at the Army Ordnance School at Fort Lee, Virginia. She holds a master’s degree in education and is a graduate of the Army Management Staff College and the Continuing Education Course for Senior Leaders.

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