Many questions left unanswered about military units
At this point, it's hard to know exactly what the U.S. Defense Department has planned for the Army Reserve and National Guard facilities in McCook. The information we do have came from U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, who reported in a news release Friday that the Army Reserve Center in McCook would be closed, but that the Army Reserve operations may be moved into a new facility to be operated jointly with the Nebraska National Guard Unit in McCook.
According to Nelson's news release, the possibility exists that the U.S. Defense Department will build a new Armed Forces Reserve Center in McCook if the Army is able to find land suitable for construction.
The plan contains a lot of "ifs" and "maybes" but it does have merit from an efficiency standpoint. Since both Army Reserve and National Guard facilities are located in McCook, it would be cost efficient to combine into one location.
However, the down side is that the Guard and Reserve would be abandoning two good, well-kept buildings: the National Guard Armory at 404 West Seventh, and the Army Reserve Training Center at 400 Airport Road.
The Army Reserve building is owned by the McCook Economic Development Corp., which took over the property from TRW, a capacitor manufacturer. The lease to the Army is a major source of revenue for the development corporation, but -- if vacated -- the building could be a potential site for industrial development. One possibility is use as a manufacturing site for Pawnee Aviation, the McCook-based helicopter kit company which is planning to expand.
Future use for the National Guard Armory, should a new building be constructed, is less clear. It contains a large open floor, making it an adequate space for auctions and recreational use. However, no alternative uses have yet been suggested.
One things's for sure. McCook does have plenty of available land should the Defense Department follow through with plans to build a joint Guard and Reserve facility in McCook. One possibility is a location near the airport, close to where the current Army Resrve training center now stands. Another potential site is the McCook Economic Development land located east of Valmont.
In the weeks to come -- as the Army's plans become more clear-cut -- we hope that a way can be found to keep the National Guard and Army Reserve center in McCook. The community is a convenient location for the Guard members and Reservists in Southwest Nebraska, and, through the years, the units from here have distinguished themselves in service to their country.