“The Iowa National Guard has had a presence in Corning for nearly 125 years. It was a decision that was extremely difficult for us as an organization to make,” says Colonel Greg Hapgood, a public affairs officer for the Iowa National Guard.
The majority of the 80 soldiers assigned to the Corning armory are part-time rather than full-time members of the Guard.
“Of the 80 soldiers that are located at the Corning armory, four of those are full time,” Hapgood says. “Two are recruiters and two are administrative personnel that are readiness soldiers that work at the armory.”
All will be transferred to Camp Dodge in Johnston, but the timing of their transfer — and the permanent closure of the Corning armory — depends on the sale of the building. The current armory in Corning opened in 1993.
“As the armory isn’t quite 25 years old, that would mean that we still have a federal debt on that armory,” Hapgood says. “Any armory sold before it’s 25 years old, there’s a certain amount alloted per month, so our job in this particular case is to the public, sell the armory and then we’ll move the unit after the armory’s sold.”
Officials expect the sale to happen by mid-2016, but if a buyer isn’t found by then, Hapgood says the armory will be put up for auction. The Iowa National Guard has had a unit based in the town of Corning since 1892.
“The first unit that was assigned to Corning…actually met at a hotel in downtown Corning,” Hapgood says, “so we’ve physically had a unit located in Corning since the early 1890s, but there have been several different structures that they have used for their location to drill and store their equipment.”
The Iowa National Guard has closed 13 armories in the past 15 years and Timothy Orr, the Iowa Guard’s adjutant general, said in a written statement that the military is operating in a “fiscally constrained environment” that requires such consolidations and closures. Colonel Hapgood says the guard is undergoing “constant” evaluations to review what’s needed from its soldiers at the state and federal levels “to make sure we’ve got the right mix of units, in the right places and that we’re strategically positioned around Iowa to be as responsive as possible and yet be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
The other armories that have been closed since 2000 were located in Sioux Center, Villisca, Mapleton, Atlantic, Clarinda, Glenwood, Hampton, Jefferson, Chariton, Newton, Eagle Grove and Centerville. The soldiers based at the soon-to-close Corning armory have been serving in the Army infantry and have fought in the Spanish-American War, World War I and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.