Air Force Brig. Gen. Bill Burks remembers that fateful day Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked by al-Qaida terrorists and slammed into the Pentagon, killing all 59 on board, the five terrorists and 125 in the building with him.
“The whole building shook,” he recalled Tuesday before the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Nevada’s newest armory. “We heard the explosion and ran outside and watched it burn.”
The 9/11 attacks launched the United States into a new era of military readiness which continues with the opening of the $25 million, 65,000-square-foot North Las Vegas Readiness Center, next to the 20-year-old Clark County armory on Range Road in the north Las Vegas Valley.
Put simply, the Nevada Army National Guard has outgrown its digs since 9/11 and the new readiness center is a big step toward catching up, said Burks, 58, the adjutant general who commands both Nevada Army and Air National Guard troops.
In 2002, the year following the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center twin towers, Nevada’s National Guard soldiers numbered 1,882. Today there are 40 percent more soldiers in the Nevada Army National Guard, 3,109.
With units already occupying the armories in Henderson, south Las Vegas and Clark County, the North Las Vegas Readiness Center “will go a long way to alleviate some of the overcrowding in the Las Vegas Valley,” Burks said prior to the ceremony in which spiritual Paiute leaders and veterans from local tribes blessed the facility.
The readiness center will be home to six weekend warrior units including two for engineering, and one each for training, transportation, explosive ordnance disposal and quartermaster water purification.
Construction was funded with $17 million from federal coffers and $8 million from the state because the Guard supports both state and federal missions, Burks said.
“This is a magnificent facility,” he said, noting that even with its opening “we’re still short of armory space for the soldiers we have.”
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308.