The Alabama National Guard's new 142nd Military Police Brigade will use the armory on Beltline Road Southwest for its headquarters, ensuring Decatur continues to have a significant Guard presence.
The Guard's 115th Signal Battalion has had two units drilling at the Decatur armory, but they are resuming activities in Florence after renovation of the armory there.
Lt. Col. Timothy Alexander, director of public affairs for the Alabama National Guard, said a full-time staff that's part of the police brigade has been working in the Decatur armory for the past eight months but he declined to say how many employees made up the staff. He said members of that staff moved to Decatur and its surrounding areas.
“The full-time unit staff is comprised of current full-time Alabama National Guard soldiers from around the state,” he said.
Alexander said that the majority of the headquarters unit members will be National Guard soldiers who use the Decatur armory for drill once a month. He said that over 100 soldiers from the brigade will drill at the armory on drill weekends.
The full brigade includes 1,000 soldiers, according to a release from the Alabama National Guard. The other 900 soldiers not drilling at the armory in Decatur will be stationed in their own armories across the state, according to Alexander. The stationing of the headquarters in Decatur was announced as a part of a National Guard ceremony last Sunday.
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the new brigade headquarters will have a positive impact on the local economy.
“When the unit does its training, its troops and members will come from not only across Alabama but sometimes out of state, too,” he said. “They’ll eat in local restaurants and stay in local hotels.”
He added that the command of the brigade and the support staff will be based in Decatur, which he also said will affect the local economy positively.
Orr said he “appreciates” the National Guard choosing the Decatur armory as the headquarters after it did not “fulfill its plans” to develop the former Lurleen B. Wallace Developmental Center property as a regional training facility.
“The National Guard has always been welcome here,” he said.
The Decatur armory was previously home to the 142nd Signal Brigade and the 142nd Battle Surveillance Brigade, which the army divested from its force structure, Alexander said. The National Guard deactivated the 142nd Signal Brigade in 2008 and the 142nd Battlefield Surveillance Brigade in 2016.
Alexander said the 115th Signal Battalion had drilled at the Decatur armory since the surveillance brigade stopped using the armory in 2016.
“The stationing of the 142nd Military Police Brigade headquarters at the Decatur armory ensures an Alabama National Guard command headquarters in the region,” Alexander said.
The brigade will exercise operational administrative control of the military police structure in the state, Alexander said. That will include two military police battalions, the 231st Military Police Battalion based out of Prattville and the 203rd Military Police Battalion based out of Athens.
According to the release, the unit was approved in 2018 with planning starting “years prior.” Col. Mike Izzo will be the commanding officer of the new brigade.
Alexander echoed Orr, adding that the unit members will be “interfacing with our friends and neighbors in the Decatur area.” He said that those unit members will eat at local restaurants and use local hotels.
“We are pleased this sizable command will now call Decatur its home,” Orr said.