Armory gets $3.7 million upgrade
AUSTIN — Thanks to a $3.7 million renovation, women have their own showers and locker room at the Minnesota National Guard Armory in Austin, all members of the guard have much better classrooms and kitchen and the guard has a new recruiting tool.
Members of the 224th Transportation Co., based out of the armory along Interstate 90 in Austin, had to use the Rochester armory for about a year while the Austin armory underwent major renovations that included more carpet, the separate locker rooms/showers, movable dividers in classrooms, better storage and an overall updated look, according to Sgt. 1st Class David Gansen, readiness non-commissioned officer.
They came back to the Austin armory several weeks ago; the ribbon-cutting was Tuesday when the public was invited to stop by and see it.
One of the things Gansen stressed was how energy efficient the building now is compared with the past. Lights in rooms come on, and go off, when people enter and leave, he said. The temperature is dropped in winter and raised in summer when no one is using rooms. The gym has adjustable blinds to take advantage of sunlight.
It's too soon to tell how much money the work will save in the 50-year-old building, he said.
Maj. Kristen Auge, of the Twin Cities, training officer for the brigade of which Austin is a unit, pointed out the armory now has separate facilities for women.
That's more convenient, she said. In the past, with just one shower, men and women had to take turns with someone outside guarding the door.
The separate facilities are also more welcoming for women, she said, and that's important because the guard in Minnesota has been trying to attract more women and minorities, she said.
"It recognizes that our Minnesota National Guard recognizes us for our ability to do the job," she said.
About 20 of the 115 members of the Austin company are women, she said.
She pointed out that a woman is the brigade's commander. Capt. Tara Robertson, a Minnesota guard member, is the first woman in the nation to complete the Bradley Commanders Certification Course, a combat-arms centric course historically attended only by men.
Being able to show off the renovated armory and also be able to point to success of women is a great recruiting tool to get more women into the guard, Auge said.
From her standpoint as training officer, Auge appreciates the new dividers in classrooms -- she can have smaller or larger numbers of guard members at one time, she said.
One of the visitors was Gene Salisbury, who was a member of guard from 1953-93 and worked in maintenance in the armory before it was remodeled. He liked what he saw.
"They got all the equipment down in the basement," and there's a lot more room in the kitchen, he said.
And there's a lot more carpet instead of tile.
"When I took care of the place, I had to do a lot of scrubbing," he said.