GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- One new building joined the "fleet of ships," at Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes and another began construction in early March, marking the last two major projects awarded in the 12-year, $770-million recapitalization of RTC.
Officials from the Navy, construction contractor CBZG Design Builders and namesake shipmates and family members commissioned USS Missouri March 6. It houses RTC's new $10-million simulated arms marksmanship trainer.
Construction on USS Reuben James, the $48-million final barracks to be built, kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony March 9.
"USS Reuben James is the last major project awarded in our decade-long program to bring the Navy's only recruit training facility into the 21st century, to provide the tools needed to train the future Sailors in our Navy," said Capt. Jake Washington, commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest.
Former crew members of USS Missouri (BB 63) and USS Reuben James (FFG 57) attended each ceremony, presenting personal mementos and participating in cutting the ceremonial ribbon and breaking ground with ceremonial shovels.
"I just can't say enough about the hospitality we were shown here by the Navy," said Ralph Hammel, a former Marine who served aboard from 1946-1948, who attended the ceremony along with another former "Mighty Mo" crew member during the Korean War, Earl Gerhard.
"We've got the greatest Navy in the world, and it's good to see it's in good hands with today's Sailors.
"This impressive building and the training held here should help ensure the new Sailors coming into the Navy will continue to keep it great."
The USS Reuben James barracks, named in honor of the current frigate and its namesake boatswain's mate who served in the Barbary Wars of 1804, is intended to be the first RTC barracks to meet LEED Silver certification for environmentally-friendly construction. It will be Great Lakes' second LEED Silver building, joining RTC's Atlantic Fleet Drill Hall, which was commissioned in December 2007.
LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, is part of an environmentally friendly rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which encourages adoption of sustainable green building and development practices. Criteria for LEED certification include such building features as energy-efficient lighting, low-water-use fixtures, low-maintenance construction materials and landscaping features, and use of construction materials from local sources, reducing fuel consumption and emissions during transport.
"This milestone is a testament to the Navy sticking to the RTC recapitalization plan over all these years and also to our contractors making this happen day after day, safely and effectively," said Capt. David Schnell, Naval Station Great Lakes commanding officer.
The USS Missouri marksmanship trainer hosts 66 computer-and laser-equipped simulated small arms weapons stations to train recruits in weapons safety and fundamentals. Completed on time and within budget, the new facility improves training efficiency. It supports more training stations than the previous building. Because it is co-located with the live-fire range for follow-on training, it also reduces the transit time for recruits and the personnel load for training staff.
"These buildings provide more than just training," said Capt. John Peterson, RTC commanding officer. "They provide for the future of our Navy."
Since beginning the RTC recapitalization program in 1998, the Navy has spent more than $700 million to modernize its recruit training infrastructure, replacing 1960s-era buildings with state-of-the-art facilities for training, feeding and housing new recruits during their eight-week indoctrination into Navy life. The base's new facilities include the one-of-a-kind, award-winning Battle Stations 21 "ship in a bottle," which uses special effects technology from the theme park industry to simulate shipboard emergencies including fire, flooding and mass casualty events.
RTC recapitalization projects have included 13 new barracks -- including dining and classroom areas -- three new drill halls and other new training facilities.
For more news from Naval Facilities Engineering Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navfachq/.