Vol. 18, No. 11 June 2 - 15, 2005


Armory Soldiers in Iraq Will Get to Show Bronx Colors
Status of Facility Still in Limbo


A National Guard unit stationed in Iraq will finally get to display its Bronx colors, but it’s unclear how much longer the borough will be their home base.

The 145th Maintenance Company, stationed at the Kingsbridge Armory, was issued an official Bronx flag last month. The 200-member unit will hoist the flag over their base in Iraq.

“They’re eagerly awaiting the Bronx flag,” said 2nd Lt. Jonathan Rabinowitz, a unit member still stationed at the armory.

The company had received a state flag from state Senator Efrain Gonzalez, but they wanted something from their Bronx home. “New York is a big state,” said Rabinowitz, 32.

After they were deployed, company members wrote to Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión’s office about flying a little piece of the Bronx above their new surroundings. The flags aren’t made frequently, but Carrión’s office was able to procure one in time for Memorial Day.

Carrión presented the flag during a ceremony at Woodlawn Cemetery to honor Bronx veterans. “We don’t always agree why we are engaged in conflict, but once troops are there, we have to come together in unity to support them,” he said. After unfurling the orange, white, and blue banner, Carrión gave the flag to Rabinowitz to send to the company.

Troops stationed abroad were excited to hear about the flag — which bears the slogan “Yield not to evil” in Latin. “The support that the unit has received from the residents of the Bronx is greatly appreciated … and is something these soldiers will never forget,” said 1st Sgt. Lutchman Ramadhin, who is stationed in Iraq, via e-mail last week.

The 145th Maintenance Company is currently fixing vehicles in Iraq, as they do at the armory. The unit, along with the 258th Field Artillery, occupies a building to the rear of the armory on West 195th Street. The Artillery was also deployed to Iraq, but returned to the facility last March.

It’s uncertain how long they will remain at the armory considering the national push to close bases and consolidate troops. Last month, the U.S. Department of Defense announced 33 base closures and the realignment of 29 others across the country. The Kingsbridge Armory was not on that list.

But company members who are in correspondence with the Norwood News say that they have been hearing that they will be sent to Staten Island, and that the Guard will permanently leave the Bronx facility.

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, a spokesperson for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said no decisions have been made. “There have been some discussions [about closures], but none have been finalized,” he said. Fanning thought that decisions would be made this fall.

The Guard vacated the armory’s head house and drill floor in 1994 when the state began closing other bases. The two companies remained, however, in the 50,000-square-foot annex behind the armory. The space is used for drill practice and repairing vehicles, and is home to a cadet program and a support group for unit family members.

The city began talking to the state last year about relocating the companies to make way for the armory’s redevelopment. A proposal formulated by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, and favored by officials, would put schools in the area occupied by the annex. The head house and drill floor would house commercial and community space.

“We want to be able to go in there and have services and goods provided to us, which we now have to go to other neighborhoods to get,” said Phyllis Reed, a Coalition member, at the group’s annual meeting last month.

The city Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which is overseeing the armory’s redevelopment, started discussing a land swap with the state last year—in effect, giving the state space for the Guard in return for their relinquishing the annex. Negotiations appear to have stalled, however. “We have nothing new we can report at this time,” said Janel Patterson, an EDC spokesperson.

Fanning did not know details about the discussions, but didn’t rule out the move. “Given the potential changes … things like that might be taken into consideration,” he said.

If that happens, Sgt. Glenda Ngirkuteling of the 145th, said her company would miss the space, but would adjust. “Your heart goes with the unit,” said Ngirkuteling, 27.

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