The first time the U.S. Army opened a post in Vancouver, it meant a five-month march that covered more than 2,000 miles.
This time, the move covered about 10 miles, from Vancouver Barracks to Sifton.
The community will get a look Friday at the new Armed Forces Reserve Center when the Army welcomes the public to a Veterans Day ribbon-cutting. The ceremony will be at 2 p.m. at 15005 N.E. 65th St., just south of Fourth Plain Boulevard and Ward Road.
The Army actually checked out of Vancouver Barracks almost two months ago, when military operations ceased at midnight on Sept. 14.
It ended a 162-year span of history that started in 1849 when an Army contingent left Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in May and reached Fort Vancouver in October.
Vancouver Barracks is destined to become part of the National Park Service, which operates the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
After several previous reductions, the Vancouver Barracks site consists of 33 acres and 28 buildings, including 20 categorized as historic buildings.
While their former base had significant historical value, there is something to be said for working in an office built in the last 70 years or so.
“From a historical standpoint, I love Van
couver Barracks,” said Maj. Tina Moditz, with the Army Reserve’s 1st Logistical Support Battalion, 413th Regiment.
But from a work standpoint, “I was in an old horse barn. You could look through the floor and see dirt,” said Moditz, who is facilities key master at the new site. “They tore down the building in front of us.”
The new 18.5-acre campus offers much more as a training facility and administrative center.
“We have a distance learning center, and classrooms that are perfect for instruction,” Moditz said.
The new center cost about $30 million. Three buildings serve almost 1,000 members of the Army Reserve and Washington National Guard, said Capt. Nathan Alba, plans officer.
That dual occupancy creates an interesting technical split, by the way.
“The Army Reserve and National Guard are on two different systems, with separate servers,” said Col. Mark Snyder, the senior tenant. So, rooms have two sets of jacks and plug-ins to accommodate different military units.
Snyder added that Vancouver Barracks did have something to offer.
“There is a huge difference in space,” Snyder said. “At Vancouver Barracks, we all had our own space. Here, they took the total number of people and designed it for one-third of them.
“Economically, it did not make sense to build space for every soldier since their units are here once a month,” Snyder said.
The reserve center includes storage buildings, a site for a combat-support hospital, a maintenance shop for military equipment and parking for almost 300 vehicles.
Alba said seven Army generals are expected to attend the Friday event.