Senior leaders with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Fort Irwin broke ground March 23 on a new Simulations Center at the installation, which is home to the National Training Center.
“It has been a 10-year journey to get us here, but this is a critical inflection point in Fort Irwin’s history, and, more importantly, in where we are going as an Army,” said Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor, commanding general of the National Training Center. “It just so happens that this project came to fruition in just the right time.”
Construction of the 68,000-square-foot facility includes mission training, tactical operations, network operations and video teleconferencing centers, as well as an area for a leader training program, which will incorporate offices for rotating brigade and battalion command staff, rehearsal rooms and warfighting breakout conference rooms, among other amenities.
As the Army shifts its focus on its warfighting tactics – from a brigade-centric to a division-level fighting force, for Taylor, the message is clear: “It’s time to bring the Army’s division to the National Training Center.”
The new facility will afford the capabilities of not only training Soldiers at the brigade level, but also simultaneously at the division level in real-world virtual scenarios.
“What this facility will do is it will allow us to simultaneously conduct a live brigade exercise in the box and connect it in a seamless way with a constructive exercise right here,” Taylor said. “We can integrate the division in the brigade fight … This facility is custom-made for that purpose. So, while I doubt those who first drafted this 10 years ago saw this incredible timing at this point in history, this could not be better timed for where the Army is headed.”
Additionally, the new building will be a state-of-the-art upgrade for the National Training Center Operations Group’s Leader Training Program and will allow Soldiers to move from trailers they have operated in since the 1980s to a more sophisticated permanent facility to hone their skills and capabilities.
FROM CONCEPT TO REALITY
The concept for the Simulation Center began nearly a decade ago. Funding was approved as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Military Construction budget.
“Today represents a culmination of nine years of collaboration between Fort Irwin Army Garrison, National Training Center staff and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles, Huntsville and Sacramento districts,” said Randy Elder, program manager with the Corps’ Fort Irwin Resident Office.
The contract for the construction was awarded this past February to RA Burch at just over $44 million, which came in under the initial budget of $52 million.
“A lot of hard of work goes into this, so for the people sitting here and standing behind you, wearing the reflective belts and helmets – our (Directorate of Public Works) and the USACE team – big hats off to them for getting us to this point today,” said Col. Jason Clarke, Fort Irwin garrison commander, during the ceremony. “I appreciate all of the hard work everyone put in, and I look forward to seeing what this thing looks like in the future.”
“It really is a testament to all of the people standing in the back, and our contractor, RA Burch, who is here, to really initiate this project,” said Col. Julie Balten, commander of the Corps’ LA District. “Our purpose is to really support our Soldiers and our family members that are here today and on this installation.”
The mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to deliver engineering solutions for our nation’s toughest challenges, Balten said, “and that includes continuing to deliver state-of-the-art facilities here at Fort Irwin to support our warfighters and their families to strengthen our nation’s security and energize the local economy.”
Other projects completed at Fort Irwin that were overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its partners over the past several years, include Weed Army Community Hospital, the Fort Irwin Water Treatment Plant, Gray Eagle hangar and Fort Irwin’s new library, which opened its doors following a ribbon-cutting ceremony in March of last year.
“These are all tremendous examples of our desire to continue to support the growth and transformation this community has experienced over the past 20 years,” Balten said. “Along with our partners, we are committed to meeting the needs and requirements of world-class sustainable installations, like Fort Irwin, where Soldiers and their families call home.”
Construction of the new Simulations Center is expected to begin in April. Estimated completion of the project is in March 2025.
“It's a privilege to be a part of this, and we couldn’t do it without the Corps of Engineers,” Taylor said.