Virginia’s 183rd RTI marks completion of new facility

One of three newly-completed barracks at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. The new billets can provide lodging for more than 300 students and cadre at the RTI and are designed to suit the needs of the various courses taught at the facility. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute marked the opening of the second and final phase of their new facility during an annual family day event Sept. 23. Phase II includes 123,916 square feet of student barracks spread across three two-story barracks buildings. Each building is equipped with high speed wireless internet, complimentary laundry facilities, and various room configurations all designed to suit the needs of the diverse course offerings of the RTI.

“We are in a class with very few states,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Howard “Skip” Halfacre, commandant of the RTI, on the newly completed state-of-the-art facility. “Students are going to attend a world-class facility, not only in the classroom spaces and in the instruction they’ll receive, but also in the living spaces.”

Previously, Soldiers attending courses at the RTI were housed primarily in 50-person, open bay barracks dating back to World War II. The old barracks lacked air conditioning and modern amenities and were a frequent complaint listed on end-of-course evaluations, according to Halfacre. The all-new barracks facility aims to quell those complaints.

“The new barracks are awesome,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Mateo, from the Guam National Guard currently assigned to the Army National Guard’s Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning. Mateo is among the first to stay in the new barracks while attending the Rappel Master Course at the RTI Sept. 24-28. “Compared with the old barracks, they’re really nice.”

Two of the new barracks buildings are similarly designed and feature room configurations including one and two-man rooms joined by shared latrines as well as two suites with private restroom facilities designed to house VIPs, including commanders or visiting dignitaries. A portion of the rooms are designed specifically for use by instructors and staff from each of the RTI battalions.

The third barracks building, located adjacent to the Officer Candidate School classrooms and administrative spaces, was designed to specifically suit the needs of OCS, but the lodging available in the building can be used by other courses as needed. The lower level of the building includes six 10-person open bays with adjoining latrines with three showers, toilets and sinks, as well as rooms for OCS cadre. The top level is comprised exclusively of two-person rooms joined by shared latrines.

“It’s nice having the OCS classrooms and admin spaces right next to the billets,” Halfacre said.

In each of the barracks, every respective level is equipped with a complimentary laundry facility that includes three washers and five dryers and a lounge area with a flat screen TV and space for students to gather. Each of the rooms and buildings are accessed via key cards that are issued to RTI students upon their arrival at the schoolhouse. Key cards enable students to access only the building to which they are assigned, along with their rooms and the laundry facility on their floor.

All of the facilities at the RTI are hardwired for computer access and are also equipped with wireless internet.

The rooms are currently furnished with beds, dressers and desks, and the one and two-person rooms with shared latrines are each equipped with a sink and mirror area located outside the shared latrine.

“There’s an awful lot of lessons learned and design features that we observed in our visits to other RTIs,” Halfacre said. “Our visits to those places gave us an opportunity to observe what their best practices were.”

The new barracks are also equipped with state-of-the-art green technology including motion detector lights and automatically flushing toilets and the building was completed with the use of recycled materials. The building also makes use of a rainwater collection system that supplies water to the irrigation system, and should earn the RTI facility silver or gold LEED certification.

“I wish our state had stuff like this,” said Sgt. 1st Class Donald Gum, a recruiter from the Alaska National Guard currently attending the Rappel Master Course. “They’re nice, they’re brand new and they’re clean.”

Soldiers of the RTI along with their family members were invited to tour the newest addition to the RTI complex during the family day festivities that included a rock wall and mobile high ropes course provided by the Virginia Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force. Soldiers and families were also treated to a lunch of hamburgers and hotdogs and assorted cookout foods.

Phase I of the project, completed in Dec. 2010, encompasses a total of 83,554 square feet that includes the regimental headquarters building, an educational building with administrative and classroom space, an OCS building and an auditorium capable of seating 250.

The opening of the new barracks marks the completion of the two phase, $57 million project.

“To me, it’s a personal accomplishment and I feel like I’m leaving a legacy of the time that I spent here,” said Halfacre, who plans to retire in November, and who has worked on the project since its inception. “Of course it wasn’t just a one person show. It was a Team Virginia effort to make it happen.”

To view more photos of the new facility and the family day event, visit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157631611457186/