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Texas architects finish more than decade-long Pentagon project

When 71-year-old Architect Jack Rice Turner began designing an explosion-proof steel military complex for the Pentagon in 2001, even he didn’t imagine its magnitude.

“This may be my last hoorah,” the Korean War veteran and retired naval officer and reservist said. “It’s probably the largest military project Texas will see.”

Turner is now 84.

The $71 million 425,000-square-foot, three-phase 60-acre Armed Forces Reserve Center complex at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport opened Jan. 16 with military fanfare. It was designed as a cost-saving measure to meet the training and operation needs of Texas National Guard, and Army and Marine Corps reserve units. It can house and train about 3,000 reservists in tandem.

Turner, a principal partner in Turner, Ramirez & Associates, established the Corpus Christi architectural firm in 1958. It specializes in governmental facilities — having operated a Laredo office for more than 30 years, where a joint reserve center for National Guard was completed in 1991. Since then the firm has built and renovated several Texas National Guard armories, including in Houston, Kingsville and Corpus Christi. It renovated the National Guard armory on Horne Road, which was renamed for Dr. Hector P. Garcia in 1995. The firm also designed its new vehicle maintenance facility.

The pentagon’s newly-finished reserve center was awarded that same year, but funding and other delays held up its design work until 2001.

“I had no idea it would take so long,” Turner said. “You would be surprised the delays with the federal government.”

In the interim his team completed a 1997 $6.2 million project at Naval Air Station Dallas for the Peace Prairie II Aircraft Training Facility, which is used to train Royal Singapore Air Force Chinook helicopter pilots.

Turner’s partner, Philip Ramirez, 33, was interested in aerospace engineering while a Portland High School student. But working with Turner while in high school, and during summers while in college, shifted his interest.

“The concept of working with the military was an honor,” Ramirez said. “It’s been an exciting ride with Jack, to keep those in uniform the best equipped possible to defend our freedom.”

The partners graduated from University of Texas Engineering School 50 years apart — Turner in 1953 and Ramirez in 2003. Despite having a part the in early design phase of the reserve complex, Ramirez officially became Turner’s partner as the first phase of its construction progressed.

The firm was recommend for the project by the Texas Military Facilities Commission, which had overseen many of the firm’s projects for about 15 years.

“Mr. Turner and his associates’ enthusiasm, work habits and integrity are outstanding,” wrote John Wells, executive director of the commission in Oct. 2005 letter of recommendation. “They continue to work with diligence and without complaint through the maze of governmental rules and regulations.”

Project support also came from Texas Rep. Donna Campbell R-New Braunfels and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who advocated for funding.

The first phase completed in 2006 was the Army Aviation Support Facility, which is used to train Blackhawk and Apache helicopter pilots.

“Your hard work has really paid off,” wrote Hutchison to Turner after its completion. “You have created a beautiful and functional facility for our troops.”

The second and third phase provided a joint vehicle maintenance facility. It required more than a million-square-feet of aircraft tie-down areas and taxiways.

All three phases were designed to meet anti-terrorism standards.

“The impressive, quality work of your architect and engineering firm reflects your desire to continue to serve our country and its military,” wrote Stephen A. Jameson, director of facilities with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, in a 2011 letter of appreciation. “I have enjoyed being able to work through the years with such a wonderful man and American patriot.”

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