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Armory renovation complete

By Michael Butler

The R. Dewey Piper Armory is the headquarters for the Alabama National Guard's 158th Maintenance Company and 731st Maintenance Battalion in Tallassee. Recently, the building has undergone a facelift.

"One of the biggest things we asked for other than bathrooms, was we need the parking lot to be twice as big," said Sergeant First Class Joel Walker. "It took right at two years. We deployed in May of 2021. They started in November of that year. We got it back in July of this year."

Walker said that bathrooms have been updated with lockers which were not previously in the facility. There is also a gym with cardio equipment.

The 158th will be returning to Tallassee for drills after working in Tuskegee. First though will be an assignment on the border in the Southwest U.S.

"They'll be gone for 12 months," Walker added.

125 are being deployed and will be given a sendoff at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium on Oct. 10 at 10 a.m.

"We're using the rec center that morning for family to go and see their family member off."

There are 147 service members in the 158th. Another 67 serve in the 731st.

"We're the largest batallion in the state right now," Walker noted. "We've got people all the way from Arab down to Tallassee and Tuskegee."

Walker is full-time with the 731st. He enlisted as a junior at Tallassee High School in 1996 and has been on three deployments himself.

"I've been to Iraq, Bahrain and Kuwait."

He was in Poland last football season when his daughter Grace was peforming with the color guard auxilary for the Pride of Tallassee.

"I was appreciative to see the video," Walker said of the Tallassee Times TV on YouTube webcasts for THS football games. "It was 1 in the morning and I (was) watching a football game."

Walker, like so many others in the service, are proud to do their duty but understands the sacrifice.

"A lot of people don't understand what the families have to go through. My wife will tell you, 'I'm in this as much as he is.' (She) has to take my slack up everyday."

The armory has served as a center for events, from THS football banquets to Chamber of Commerce dinners.

"We try to support the community," Walker noted. "Everything the city needs, we're there."

The community will be able to see the upgrades at the armory on Oct. 21 at 10 a.m.

"We're doing a ribbon cutting ceremony. We've got the VFW helping out. They're getting a bouncy house for kids. We're going to have the rock wall from the recruiters, maybe the pugil stick pit. Mr. (Michael) Bird is getting some of the choir out to sing the National Anthem for us. We're going to raise the flag with the Boy Scout troup. We're going to have walk-throughs of the facility after some of the ceremonial stuff.

"At 12 we're doing the reunion luncheon. We haven't done that in several years. We did a reunion breakfast. It turned out awesome. We had 150-200 people. (It's) not just for retirees. If you did two year or four years, come out. Those with ID cards will get a complimentary lunch."