Guard training site in works at depot

<p>Oregon Rep. Dennis Richardson spoke to the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Tuesday on his plans for the state of Oregon if he is elected governor.</p>

Within the next year or two, a portion of what was the Umatilla Chemical Depot site will be home to the largest National Guard training facility in the state of Oregon.

One of the three main goals included in the depot’s reuse plan is the transfer of about 7,500 acres to the Oregon National Guard for the facility.

“This will be the new primary, largest training base in the state,” Don Chance, project manager for the Umatilla Army Depot Reuse Authority, said at the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce Business to Business lunch Tuesday.

The other two goals for the overall site include creating an environmental preservation plan and an economic development plan to promote job creation and help establish a tax base.

Stan Hutchison, the chief of planning and programming for the Oregon Military Department, and officer Jim Lindseth of the National Guard presented plans for the training facility during Tuesday’s luncheon.

“The National Guard has training sites throughout the state of Oregon, predominantly at Camp Rilea on the coast,” Hutchison said. “We are looking at Umatilla as being our Northwest training site.”

Hutchison said the National Guard has used Umatilla as a local training area since 1980. He said the Guard has also been actively working with the U.S. Army and the Local Reuse Authority since they started the base realignment and closure process in 1988, so the Guard could use a piece of the land down the road to form their training site.

“We are looking at the training site to be very similar to the camp training site at Rilea,” he said.

Lindseth said there is a state and federal vision for the facility. The state vision, he said, involves the facility serving as the emergency operations center for all of central Oregon emergency response and recovery services

Lindseth said the facility has 389 bunkers that can be used as shelters, for storage or for whatever is needed.

The federal vision includes training soldiers.

“The main intent is to become a full-time infantry school house,” Lindseth said. “Half the year, we would have soldiers coming from all over the United States to train here.”

The influx of soldiers, he said, will benefit the local economy because the Guardsmen will be out in the community buying products and goods in the region. He said the facility would have the ability to house approximately 3,000 soldiers.

Currently, he said the Guard teaches approximately 300 students at the facility per year. As it moves into full operations, he said that number will increase.

In addition, the National Guard is looking to improve the gun range capabilities in the area.

“Right now, the state of Oregon does not have any light machine-gun ranges,” Lindseth said. “It is incredibly important to make that happen.”

He said the Guard also currently has a variety of communication packages including satellite phones, military radios, a back-up power generator and more.

Hutchison said the Guard has yet to take ownership of the facility. He said at full operations, the Guard expects the facility to have a similar economic impact as Camp Rilea, which as of 2011, provided $14 million to its local community.

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