Cameron Station has emerged in the past week as a possible site for a $2.8 million Virginia Army National Guard armory proposed for Alexandria.
The armory is one of seven new Virginia National Guard facilities called for in last October's reactivation of the 29th Light Infantry Division, which will have headquarters at Fort Belvoir. The state and federal governments plan to spend $20.9 million on new and expanded armory facilities throughout Virginia.
Negotiations are under way between Virginia National Guard and Cameron Station officials to determine if an armory can be located there, guard spokesmen say.
The Department of Defense plans to construct a new building at Cameron Station in 1988. The guard would like to add two stories to that two-story building for armory use.
Lt. Col. Hal James of the Virginia guard hesitated to call Cameron Station the "primary site" for an Alexandria armory, noting that the guard doesn't "have the concurrence of the post commander."
Spokesmen for the Military District of Washington declined to comment on the possibility of an armory at Cameron Station, referring all inquiries to the Virginia National Guard in Richmond.
Meanwhile, Alexandria officials are, in the words of Mayor Charles E. Beatley Jr., "waiting to see what the specifics are." Beatley called the armory a "potential resource as long as it doesn't have any degrading effects on the neighborhood."
Bernard Brenman of the Holmes Run Committee, a citizens group representing the area near Cameron Station, is not waiting for specifics. Brenman, a retired Army colonel, said that "the Army makes a bad neighbor," and he finds the proposed Cameron Station location "very distressing."
When the armory was first proposed for Alexandria, it was to have been located east of Cameron Station, near the proposed Clermont Avenue Beltway interchange. The city refused to give the proposed site to the National Guard.
"We were willing to sell the site at a reasonable price," said Dayton Cook of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. Cook said that the city could not "give the site away for nothing."
Despite its proximity to congested Van Dorn Street and a future Metrorail station, Cook is not worried about an armory causing additional traffic congestion. Noting that it would get its primary use one weekend a month, Cook says an armory would increase the number of persons at Cameron Station during the week by six.
"We the guard do want to put a unit in Alexandria," James said, reviving a tradition that dates to before the Civil War of stationing some kind of state militia in the city.
At full capacity, the armory would serve 200 soldiers, enough to staff a battalion headquarters. It is intended to serve as headquarters for the 70th light infantry battalion, which would station three line companies in the Manassas area.
The 29th Light Infantry, or Blue-Gray Division, is famed for being the only guard unit to go ashore in the first wave on D-Day.
To accommodate its reactivation, seven new Virginia armories were proposed for Alexandria, Fort Belvoir, Fort A.P. Hill, Leesburg, Lexington, Northern Neck and Sandston. Additionally, armories at Blackstone, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Manassas, Petersburg, Staunton and Warrenton are scheduled for expansion.
The 29th will be the only light infantry division in the National Guard. Light divisions are designed to survive with less noncombat support than other units.
They are not issued company vehicles or mess sections. Soldiers in Seven new armories were proposed for Virginia. these units must be in top physical condition.
If the guard hopes to begin construction according to its timetable, it faces a challenge worthy of a light division: pin down an armory site in Alexandria and do it in 30 days.
"If we can meet our long-term goals better, we'll put construction back a year if necessary," James said.
But Cook sized up the situation thusly: "We'll know in a month if it's even going to be in Alexandria."