ALGONA, Iowa -- "It`s a great unit. They`re all great people here. A lot of fun in Algona. A lot of nice people here, small town," said SPC Zacharry Carel. The 21 year-old is from the Quad Cities, and has enjoyed his time in Algona. The small town fun Carel is in part referring to for the soldiers assigned to the Algona Facility, is drinking beer and playing darts at their favorite local haunt, Pep's.
The unit loves the bar so much, it recently gave the owner a plaque and a sign as a farewell gift; something to remember the soldiers by. "They kinda completely surprised us, said Pep' s Owner Doug Poeppe. "They wanted to give us a gift and I was really kind of hoping we didn`t have to get that gift because we didn`t want them to leave...we`re gonna miss them," said Poeppe. Poeppe believes the soldiers will come back to visit whenever they're in town.
Sgt. Dustin Rowley, who's from Algona, says the bittersweet move to Camp Dodge in Johnston is the right one. "We'll have a lot more ability to train, better availability of training equipment," said Sgt. Rowley. The ability to train at obstacle courses, confidence courses, and leadership reaction courses, as well as rifle ranges, it's all there at Camp Dodge.
And in addition to the increased training capabilities the move to Camp Dodge provides for, Colonel Greg Hapgood says another key factor went into the decision to close Algona. "When you look at factors like the number of soldiers that come from that county or that community that are in that local unit, in this particular case, it was a very small number, it was just a handful of soldiers that actually drilled or were assigned to the unit in Algona, the vast majority of the soldiers came from quite a distance just to drill in Algona," said Hapgood.
The Armory is preparing for closure effective Spring 2017. The more than 20,000 square foot facility was built in 1994, but Algona's relationship with the Iowa National Guard dates back to 1889.
Iowa National Guard personnel and property will be vacated from the facility within 180 days after its closure, and the Readiness Center will be transferred to the city of Algona for its use.