WALLA WALLA -- The Washington Army National Guard is beefing up in Walla Walla.
The Alpha Battery 2-146th Field Artillery unit will return to its former home at the Walla Walla Armory. Field artillery in the state National Guard started in Walla Walla almost a century ago.
The Alpha Battery has 54 guardsmen, with specialties ranging from cannon crew members to fire direction specialists. They provide long-range fire support in combat operations with 75-millimeter Pack Howitzers and Paladins.
"The community of Walla Walla is very important to the Washington National Guard," Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the state's adjutant general, said in a statement. "The tradition and history of the field artillery in the community of Walla Walla is second to none and we are excited to return this capability to the city where it started."
The National Guard wanted to have a larger presence in Southeast Washington after closing the Pullman Armory two years ago, said National Guard spokesman Capt. Joseph Siemandel.
"We don't have too many people in southeastern Washington," he told the Herald. "It's kind of time to bring the National Guard feel back to southeastern Washington."
The guardsmen will be stationed out of Walla Walla, although they will spend the majority of their time training at the Yakima firing range, Siemandel said.
"They can't really fire in downtown Walla Walla," he said.
The 146th Field Artillery Regiment has ties with Walla Walla going back to World War I. Guardsmen served at Fort Walla Walla before moving to the Walla Walla Armory.
The regiment served in WWI and in the Pacific theatre in WWII. It also supplied guardsmen to the Iraq War in 2004 and 2008.
The Walla Walla Armory now has just a small unit based there, Siemandel said. The move from the Alpha Battery's home at the Montesano Armory to Walla Walla will be spaced out, with community outreach and recruiting events in Walla Walla to let residents know about the move.
"It's a great opportunity for Walla Walla citizens to follow the tradition," he said.
The Washington National Guard is based at Camp Murray and has 8,000 members between Army and air components.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom