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Sen. Johnson Tours Watertown Readiness Ctr.



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The South Dakota Army National Guard has a new place to call home in Watertown. Their new Readiness Center has been completed and one of the first to get a tour of the new facility is the man who helped make it a reality.

When you work in politics as long as United States Sen. Tim Johnson has, you get days like this one. A day when you actually get to see a project through, beginning to end.
    
"I'm very proud of this. It was badly needed and I'm very proud of it," said Sen. Johnson.

Plans for a new South Dakota Army National Guard Readiness Center in Watertown began in 1995. But as Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Johnson secured the funding. In 2011, he helped convince President Barack Obama to set aside $25 million for the armory in the budget.
    
Johnson said, "Nowhere was this more needed than in Watertown."

On Monday, Johnson got to tour the halls of the 80,000 square foot facility for the first time. The facility will soon be home to three units and 350 soldiers.

Maj. Steve Siemonsma said, "A lot of the classrooms that we have in this building we can train every single one of our soldiers that we'll have in this facility. In the old building we didn't have that ability."

Along with classrooms, the facility has an auditorium, administrative and storage space, as well as a place to park their military vehicles.

"We have a facility out back that we can do maintenance and we can bring every piece of equipment that we have here into a heated location to do our services on. In the other facility, all we had was a motor pool," said Maj. Siemonsma.

Now equipped with the resources, the guard says they'll learn how to best utilize them, while continuing to do what they do best.

Maj. Siemonsma said, "We're going to support any community across the state and we'll react as quickly as we need to."

The new facility is about a mile from the old one, which was more than 50 years old. A ribbon cutting and open house for the new facility will be held Sept. 7 at 10 a.m.
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