Local training center set to close

Posted: September 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — A local training and deployment facility for civilian volunteers and military members deployed overseas will cease operations at the end of the month.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Deployment Center — located on Prince Frederick Drive just east of Winchester — has trained about 12,000 personnel headed for Iraq, Afghanistan and other assignments since opening in May 2005, according to Julie Shoemaker, acting public affairs officer for the USACE Middle East District, which is headquartered at the same location.

“[Volunteers] spend a week here [and are] ready to hit the ground overseas and start work immediately,” Shoemaker said Wednesday. “They learn first aid and other skills they would need.”

During their week of training, the volunteers spend money by staying at local hotels and eating at area restaurants, she added.

Before the center opened in Winchester, USACE volunteers went through more military-themed training at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Benning, Ga. However, the local center saved the government roughly $1,800 per person trained when it first opened, according to Shoemaker.

“They were treated like soldiers, processed like all the military people and it was taking longer and costing more money to send them through that process,” she said of Fort Bliss and Fort Benning.

While the USACE has been sending fewer people overseas as the military winds down its operations in Afghanistan, the deployment center’s closing is not a recent development. Operations are being consolidated and moved to Fort Bliss, according to Shoemaker.

There are 11 full-time and temporary workers currently at the deployment center. Full-time employees will be reassigned within the Corps of Engineers, and the other workers will not be retained.

The USACE will hold a closing ceremony for the center at 12:30 p.m. today.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com