National Guard sets up new Vienna office

VIENNA – The West Virginia National Guard will have a more visible presence in the community with the opening of a new recruiting station in the Grand Central Mall.

Representatives from the National Guard as well as a number of local dignitaries were at the mall Thursday afternoon for the official ribbon cutting ceremony, including Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp, State Senator Donna Boley and others.

The new recruiting office is located next to Dunham Sports in a spot that has served as a location for a number of businesses in the past and was the gift wrapping station last Christmas, mall officials said.

”This is a regional recruitment office,” said Col. William E. Crane, Chief of Staff of the West Virginia Army National Guard. ”We have recruiting offices in a lot of our armories and our local communities.

”With this office, we will be able to see a lot more folks who come into the mall. We are going to be able to touch the Pleasants County area, Ritchie, Tyler, Jackson, Wood and all of the other counties around here.”

The people who come in to shop at the mall will be able to come in and get information about the National Guard and have questions answered, Crane said.

Crane is a native of Friendly, W.Va. and learned a lot there.

”The thing that I know about that community and this community, they are all about service,” he said. ”I was taught a lot about serving our community and serving our nation.

”I know that is still taught and there are still a lot of folks who look forward to serving in some capacity.”

The National Guard can provide people with a number of opportunities, including paying for an education and affordable health care for individuals and families.

”We are glad to be able to be here and provide those opportunities here,” Crane said.

The National Guard serves the state at the request of the governor in times of need, including emergencies, severe weather conditions and more.

”We serve this state,” Crane said. ”We have that opportunity to come out and serve the communities we live in.”

Grand Central Mall General Manager Christy Swisher said they were happy to have the National Guard office as part of the mall’s stable of businesses and organizations the community can have access to.

”We are thrilled to have them,” she said. ”They have been a great addition.

”The office looks great and we are proud to have them as part of our mall family.”

Crane said although there is a lot of mutual respect between the Guard and the other branches of service, they felt they had to differentiate themselves.

”We are the local folks in the community,” he said. ”We help the first responders and we help the communities we live in.

”This mall is really a hub for all of the surrounding counties and being able to have a presence here and for people to see the National Guard in the mall when they walk by helps us brand ourselves and get a good name recognition for ourselves.”

There are around 4,106 serving in the National Guard in West Virginia. There goal is 4,120. On average, they recruit around 500 annually in the state.

”We are hopeful this will be a higher visibility location,” Crane said. ”People will be able to see us and come in and learn about the benefits we offer.

”This whole region is just a community of service. Everyone helps everyone out. I have seen it. It was bred into me. It is great to be able to give back and have a place like this where people can come in and can learn about the benefits we have.”