FORT RUCKER — Army officials broke ground on a $32 million training facility on base Thursday.
In addition to a climate-controlled storage area for equipment and artifacts, the 136,000-square-foot facility will house a library, classrooms and conference areas adjacent to the existing Army Aviation Museum.
“The training support facility is going to be a 21st-century, one-of-a- kind facility that will provide us an opportunity to train and develop and inspire some 15,000 Army aviation soldiers that come through here annually to integrate history, technology and science and Army operations into their programs of instruction in their various disciplines,” William Kidd, deputy to the commanding general, said at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
History is an important component of the facility, he said, as the artifacts displayed will give soldiers an opportunity to study different machines and avionics throughout the years leading up to today to inspire conceptual thinking.
“A lot of times when you’re speaking about operations, tactics and the application of technology, we’ve found it’s very useful to start off to put a historical background — what’s happened before — and try to tie in not just the equipment that was used, but the thinking of the human beings that were doing it. What were they facing? What can we learn from that to apply to future operations?” Kidd said. “And most people learn from other people in other circumstances better than by themselves and so that’s the whole idea of using this facility in that way.”
The historical objects are already stored across seven buildings on base and are in the process of being restored with help from the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation in preparation for the facility’s opening in fall 2021.
Robert Mitchell, director of the Army Aviation Museum, said the idea started with the need to store and exhibit historical collections left over from closed facilities when the military reorganized. He said the artifacts stored haven’t been seen by the rest of the world in 60 years.
“The bigger picture for these facilities is education,” Mitchell said. “The Army has been updating and upgrading the way they present the history of the Army to soldiers coming into the Army, and what better way to do it that in a training facility with the actual physical pieces, the material culture of the Army.”
While the new facility will result in better-educated soldiers, Mitchell said it will also benefit the surrounding communities through STEM programs and education. The building will house model aircraft officials can use to impart instruction to the general community or groups of student.
“These ideas that we tried 50 years ago — they might not have worked then, but these ideas have been resurrected now with better technology, computers and those ideas are flying around,” he said. “Routinely, industry, (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and other think tanks come down to looks at these aircraft for future ideas so it’s also a repository for technology.”
The Army has been a leading innovator for modern-day helicopters that has been adopted by the rest of the world. The new facility will feature many of the helicopters, which were leading innovations for their time.