Guard to move parachute-packing to Columbus

The National Guard soon will relocate its parachute-packing operation to the Columbus Municipal Airport.

Members of the Guard’s Quartermaster Unit, which is a parachute rigging unit, will relocate from their current location at Freeman Field in Seymour to a building on the west end of the Columbus airport currently leased to Grammer Industries, a Columbus-based transportation company.

Grammer leases a hangar at 5280 N. Warren Drive from the airport for its operations but agreed to sublease the property to the National Guard, airport director Brian Payne said. The move has been in the works for about two years.

Columbus Aviation Board members approved the National Guard’s request to sublease the property from Grammer on Tuesday.

The Quartermaster Unit is reorganizing its operations and doubling its personnel to about 83 members and quadrupling its production, said Jack Fowler, strategic planner for Camp Atterbury. The unit’s reorganization will require its members to pack parachutes for all units in the northeast quarter of the United States, he said.

With those new responsibilities come new requirements for the Quartermaster Unit’s operational space, including access to aircraft fuel and the ability to accommodate large military aircraft, Fowler said.

The Columbus Municipal Airport met those requirements, Fowler said, and the airport also is easily accessible from Interstate 65 and close to Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, making it a good choice for the new location, Fowler said.

In addition to Grammer’s hangar, the board approved allowing the National Guard to lease one acre of land north of Grammer’s building to be used as additional parking for military vehicles. That land will be leased directly from the airport.

New signs for the National Guard to use on the property also were approved.

The National Guard agreed to a one-year lease that can be renewed annually. Fowler estimated the National Guard would use the land for three to five years, while also looking into expanding the existing Columbus armory or building a new one for future use.

The lease with the airport takes effect Jan. 1, but airport director Brian Payne estimated it would be February before the unit is fully operational in its new location.

About the unit

Currently based in Seymour, the 46-member Indiana National Guard Quartermaster Unit is responsible for rigging personnel and cargo parachutes and loading palettes with heavy equipment that will be shipped off. Under the new reorganization, all units in the northeast quarter of the United States will look to the local Quartermaster Unit for their parachutes to be packed and supplied.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.