GUERNSEY – Eighty-one years ago this summer, the Wyoming National Guard held its first summer camp on a tract of land just east of town and Camp Guernsey was on its way to becoming what is now considered one of the premier military training sites in the country.
Much has changed over those 81 years – tents gave way to tin huts and then more permanent structures. An armory, airport, support buildings, classrooms and firing ranges for all types of ordnance were added. The camp has evolved and looks vastly different than it did in the photos captured in those early days, but the mission has endured – to adequately train and prepare soldiers to answer the call to duty.
In September 2017, ground was broken for a $34 million federally-funded construction project in one of the remaining open areas within the confines of the cantonment area. Over the past 18 months, three new buildings have taken shape that will play an important role in carrying out that mission for many years to come.
The new buildings include a 72,000 square-foot education building, a 26,000 square-foot enlisted barracks and a 12,000 square-foot dining facility. The buildings are purposely located to provide a “campus-like” atmosphere, much as would be found in any educational institution. Streets, sidewalks and landscaping will be part of the final product to enhance the area.
The education building will include large and small classrooms, a 150-seat auditorium, large multi-purpose drill hall and administrative offices. Plans also call for an entrance-way and visitor’s area that will feature some of the history of the camp and surrounding area that pertain to the camp’s mission and operation.
The barracks will house 110 soldiers in 55 rooms. Based on square-footage, the dining facility is rated for 400 personnel and will serve 340 at any given time, nearly doubling what the current dining hall will accommodate. The new dining hall features a large fireplace centered within the building and accessible by all sides. The exterior provides some extended cover for personnel waiting to access the building.
All buildings comply with state and federal building codes and are designed to support all types of training and operations required for state and federal missions. Camp Guernsey’s ability to facilitate realistic combat training has long been one of the site’s biggest assets. In conjunction with the surrounding ranges and substantial acres of training areas that can support extended numbers of troops for artillery training, the camp also has facilities for infantry, engineer, aviation, maintenance and medical units. The camp is also used for training opportunities for outside groups such as the Wyoming Highway Patrol, Forest Service, state and county first responders and others.
Once generally considered a summer-based training area for the Army National Guard, the camp now accommodates year-round training for all branches of the military and has hosted units from outside the United States.
According to Ken Lewis, project manager-engineer from the Wyoming Military Department, the project is approximately 70 percent complete and on schedule to be fully complete by the end of the year.
While conducting a tour of the new facilities last month, Lewis said one of the interesting parts of the project is the way the walls are constructed. The building utilizes a product called insulated concrete forms that provides a number of advantages over the common concrete block construction. Blocks of thermal insulation foam, formed to interlock much as children’s Lego blocks, are stacked in paired sections with reinforcement material such as rebar placed in between. Concrete is poured inside the sections and stacked to the required height. ICF construction provides higher energy efficiency, sound suppression, higher burn ratings and better resistance to natural disaster effects.
Lewis also spoke about the method of building called “Design-Build” this project utilizes with regard to the overall planning, bidding and construction. Lewis explained some of the advantages to the method of Design-Build construction, a newer process in general construction. In the traditional construction project, also known as “Design-Bid-Build, owners must manage two separate contracts, one for the designer and one for the contractor. When problems arise, delays, higher costs and sometimes even litigation are experienced. Design-Build utilizes one contract with a single point of accountability. Designer and builder work as a team and along with the owner, solve issues as they arise, make changes as requested or needed while saving time and money.
The method, historically known as the “master builder” approach, is fast becoming the norm in construction across the country due to the substantial advantages it affords. The camp project is being overseen by the federal division of Haskell, a multi-faceted construction firm headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.
The new construction at Camp Guernsey will have a substantial impact on training soldiers for years to come and has been in the works for many years. Obtaining funding for such an undertaking is a lengthy process but now that the walls are going up, Camp Guernsey is taking yet one more step in its evolution to play a part in keeping America’s soldiers ready for the call, a mission that hasn’t changed in more than 80 years.