82nd trying to consolidate Bragg headquarters

FORT BRAGG The 82nd Airborne Division is looking to secure and consolidate its command staff.

Currently, it's operating out of 11 buildings around Post. The main headquarters is in the old NCO Club on Gruber Road.

The proposed $53 million division headquarters is President Barack Obama's biggest single budget request in next year's budget.

While everybody agrees it's time for a new building, not everyone will be happy to see the old one go.

Retired Command Sergeant Major Kenneth "Rock" Merritt has fond memories of the 82nd Airborne Division's Headquarters when it was the NCO Club.

He and the other NCOs in the division paid for the building out of their own pockets after they borrowed the money from the Uncle Sam.

"We will loan you $500,000 at 4 percent interest for a period of 10 years," Merritt said. "So I sad that's great, we can do that and of course we paid them back in five."

Merritt says the club thrived for years until the mid 70s. It sat idle until 1982. That's when it became the division headquarters.

Since then, the division has grown and is operating out of 11 buildings scattered around Post.

"We can't talk on secure communications," 82nd Airborne Division Maj. Brian Fickel said. "We can't e-mail on secure computers - a lot of our staff who are in those other building have to come here in order to do that and then just staff coordination. We need to be closer together to be able to do that type of thing."

The new building will have the latest technology, just like the new forces command building scheduled to open in June of next year.

The old division headquarters will be torn down after the new one is built in the parking lot outside the old one, but not everything will go.

"The famous patio in the back of the building will be preserved," Fickel said. "And we have that a big priority. We want to maintain the history of this Division and this Division Headquarters."

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