Steve Hansen: Even if closed, armory could still serve the community

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By Steve Hansen

Former QCS Managing Editor

Tucumcari’s Army National Guard Armory, like those in Santa Clara, Socorro and Silver City, may close as the state’s National Guard realigns its operations.

The state Guard’s commanders, Gen. Andrew E. Salas and Gen. Juan Griego, were in Tucumcari on Thursday to discuss the matter with local officials and citizens.

Salas and Griego said Tucumcari’s armory may be on the chopping block mainly due to understaffing and low local representation.

Tucumcari’s Guard post has 18 people assigned to it, though it’s budgeted for 25 personnel. Only three of the 18 call Tucumcari home.

Santa Rosa’s unit, not on the chopping block, has more personnel.

Local citizens said that was unfair. Tucumcari has hosted an armory for a far longer time than Santa Rosa — since the 1940s for Tucumcari.

If recruitment is the main problem, the local residents agreed, the community should focus on increasing Guard sign-ups.

I’m not sure that a community recruitment push would be any more successful than the Guard’s own persistent efforts.

The U.S. Army, which oversees the state Army national guards, is cutting recruitment due to federal “sequester” budget cuts.

New Mexico’s Guard recruitment and operations are also hampered by budget cuts.

In addition, as much as 80 percent of applicants to the military nationwide are turned down because of obesity, drug use, misplaced tattoos, criminal records and other reasons.

All may not be lost if the armory closes, however.

It sits next door to Mesalands Community College, and could easily join the campus. Like the neighboring college buildings, the armory has classrooms and workshop space.

Thomas Newsom, Mesalands’ president, has already made some inquiries.

Overall local sentiment seems to favor keeping the armory an armory, however.

Mayor Robert Lumpkin, a Marine Vietnam veteran, recounted several times when local Guard personnel and equipment helped during emergencies.

Dr. George Evetts, a former chief medical officer of the state Guard, cited heightened homeland security concerns.

It would be sad to lose the armory, but more college space could strengthen the local workforce, a critical economic development need.

I don’t see Tucumcari losing either way.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

stevenmhansen@plateautel.net

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