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Rep. Stearns presents $25.5 million in funding to Florida National Guard

STARKE, Fla. -- United States Representative Clifford Stearns presented three checks totaling more than $25 million to the Florida National Guard, Tuesday, to aid in what he explained to be "essential funding needed to enhance military readiness."

The congressman pushed for the new funding to be part of defense appropriations legislation; he previously earmarked $12 million for the project in 2004 and $20 million in 2006.

During his remarks at a ceremony held at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Fla., Rep. Stearns asked the group of more than 50 Soldiers and Airmen in attendance to raise their hands if they had deployed overseas to support the Global War on Terrorism; approximately two-thirds raised their hands.

"I just want you to know that myself and those in Congress greatly appreciate what you have done and what you continue to do everyday," he said.

Rep. Stearns presented the checks to junior enlisted members and Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, the Adjutant General of Florida.

"We have a tremendous team of Soldiers and Airmen in the Florida National Guard - almost 80 percent have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or other places in harm's way," said Maj. Gen. Burnett. "When they come back to Florida and continue their training, the modern facilities and equipment provided by our Congress tells them this nation respects and appreciates them."

"It is an honor to represent Camp Blanding and to work on behalf of the Florida National Guard," added Rep. Stearns.

The $25.5 million allocated for three vital Florida National Guard programs includes:

  • $15,524,000 for Phase III of the Regional Training Institute located at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, a 73,000-acre facility that sits on the shores of Lake Kingsley and is the primary wartime and state emergency response training site for the Florida Army National Guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a detachment of the 20th Special Forces Group and several units of the Florida Air National Guard.
  • $6,000,000 for the Communications Facility of the 125th Fighter Wing (based at Jacksonville Airport) -- The current communications facilities were built in 1968 and upgrades are needed to meet the Air Guard's growing homeland security missions.
  • $4,000,000 for the Weapons Skill Trainer program -- The Weapons Skill Trainer provides a highly realistic and efficient system to refine shooting skills in order to meet more stringent mobilization guidelines.