|Clay Anglin, superintendent of the Richton School District, and Lt. Col. William Walley, planning and programming branch chief for the Mississippi Army National Guard, review inspection paperwork Nov. 7. The MSARNG returned the Richton Readiness Center to the district as part of a strategic plan to reduce the number of armories nationwide. |
RICHTON, Miss. – A unique readiness center in the Mississippi Army National Guard was returned to its home community in Richton Nov. 7.
In 1954, the MSARNG wanted to locate a unit in the area and reached a one-of-a-kind agreement with the Richton School District. They would use the school’s gymnasium as their drill hall and expand the building to add offices and other necessary facilities.
“This was the only armory in the state with a basketball court,” said Robert Bayler with the MSNG Facilities Management Office.
The school continued to use the drill hall as their main basketball court until the 1970s when they built a new gymnasium. Since then, the court was used for practice and the boy’s and girl’s basketball teams would rotate each week between the two courts.
That history ended Tuesday when the MSARNG returned the facility back to the school district.
“We’ve had a great relationship with the school district,” said Lt. Col. William Walley, planning and programming branch chief at FMO. “You hate to see it go. It’s unique with the gym, but it’s a win-win situation for all of us. The facility will be better used if turned back to the community and the school needs it.”
Clay Anglin, district superintendent, agreed.
“We’ve been using the facility some,” he said. “What we’re looking to do now is maximize our opportunities.”
The Hobart Daniels Mississippi National Guard Armory, former home of Detachment 1, 859th Engineer Company, will be turned into a district athletic center. All of the district’s football operations will move into the facility including the weightlifting equipment, locker rooms, a film room, and a trainer’s office with the grass area behind the facility converted to a practice field Additionally, the basketball team will share the court in the drill hall with the archery team, which started this year.
“It’s giving the school opportunities for sports that they’ve never been able to do,” Anglin said.
Madayson McSwain, a sophomore at Richton High School, said the students were excited about the changes.
“We’ll have more room for athletics in general,” she said.
Staff Sgt. John Fulmer, the unit’s readiness noncommissioned officer, said the turnover was bittersweet. A Richton native, he joined the 859th in 1994 and became its full-time readiness NCO in 2007. He’s spent his Army career drilling and working at the facility.
“I’m sad. It’s like a second home,” he said. “I’m glad the school is getting it, but I hate to give it up. A lot of careers were started and made here. There is a lot of history in this little armory.”
The release of the Richton Readiness Center is part of a national strategic plan to decrease the number of RCs, said Col. Paul McDonald, the facility management officer. The MSARNG still has more than 70 RCs statewide with the long-term goal of reducing that number to approximately 55.
The Soldiers of Det. 1 are now drilling with their company headquarters in Pascagoula, Miss.