By Etta Walsh
CHICOPEE – Yet another new structure is under construction at Westover Air Reserve Base, this time a $6.8 million headquarters for Navy Reserve Seabees.
Last year, the base broke ground for a $31.4 million Armed Services Reserve Center, to consolidate operations from several locations to Westover.
The newest addition to the base is the $6.8 million headquarters for the Navy Reserve Seabees, which will house 550 reservists from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 27, along with 14 active-duty personnel who are relocating from Brunswick Naval Air Station, Maine, which will close in 2011.
Congress approved the construction funds last year.
The battalion, one of 12 reserve mobile construction battalions in the country, provides support to military units, particularly the U.S. Marine Corps. As of last October, the battalion had deployed 500 personnel throughout the Middle East in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Battalion 27 has detachments conducting military drills at 10 Navy Operational Support Centers in seven states throughout New England and upstate New York.
Attending last week’s groundbreaking ceremony were Col. Robert Swain, commander of Westover’s 439th Airlift Wing; Mayor Michael Bissonnette; James Robbins, commander of the Civil Engineer Corps; and Kevin Kennedy, aide to U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield.
The new construction at the base is due to the decision of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission to close and consolidate military operations throughout the United States.
The Westover expansion includes the transfer of all military operations from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., and Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield. The 103rd Airlift Wing will remain at Bradley.
Barnes National Guard Air Base, also in Westfield, home to the 104rd Airlift Wing, remains in operation.
The new Armed Forces Reserve Center will house up to 1,600 personnel from Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy Reserve operations. The base will also host the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
That new center is expected to open this summer or fall.
Westover’s 2,500 acres make it the largest Air Reserve Base in the country and the closest to Europe.
In addition to housing the 439th Airlift Wing, the base is also home to several other military tenants including Marine Air Support Squadron Six; Marine Machine Gun Platoon; 4thMarine Aircraft Wing Reserve Training Center; the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Training Center; a Reserve Readiness and Mobility Squadron, Marines Machine Gun/Anti-Terrorism Platoon; the U.S. Army Reserve 226th Transportation Company; and the Springfield Military Entrance Processing Station.
Westover breaks ground for Navy Reserve Seebees building
By Etta Walsh