Governor Scott’s ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ makes important investment to help Florida National Guard

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2015) – Governor Rick Scott’s 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget allows the men and women of the Florida National Guard to remain ready and able to support their national, state and community missions. Governor Scott’s recommended budget of $82.1 million will assist the Florida Department of Military Affairs in continuing its mission of providing ready military units and personnel to support national security objectives and protect Floridians, and support programs which add value to our state and nation.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Florida is the most military friendly state in the nation and as a Navy veteran, it is incredibly important that we do all we can to support our military and their families. The brave men and women of the Florida National Guard are the first to respond to any emergency event that may affect our state, and we will keep making important investments that give them the resources they need to continue protecting Florida’s families and communities.”

“We thank the Governor for his continued support of our service members and their working environment,” said Major General Titshaw, the Adjutant General of Florida. “This year’s budget will enable us to nearly complete a renovation effort that started almost 10 years ago and has resulted in our Armories being recognized as among the best in the nation.”

This 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget is significant in that it allows the Department of Military Affairs to continue improvements on armories throughout the state, provide funds for Guardsmen pursuing a higher civilian education, and maintain community based programs for youth and adults.

Governor Scott’s recommended budget includes $9.1 million to continue to update and improve the Florida National Guard armories that serve as the core of Florida’s hometown-based units. The updated facilities enable Florida Guardsmen to be trained and ready to react when the state or nation calls upon them.

The three armories earmarked to receive the renovation funding in Fiscal Year 2015-2016 are: the Florida National Guard armory in Wauchula; West Palm Beach Readiness Center (Callaway Armory) in West Palm Beach; and the Tampa Armory.

This funding will nearly complete renovations to the prioritized list of armories in communities from Homestead to Pensacola, enhancing the stationing facilities of nearly 10,000 Army Guardsmen.

“This funding received through the ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget will allow us to complete three additional armory renovations under our Florida Armory Revitalization Program (FARP),” Florida National Guard Construction and Facility Management Officer Lt. Col. Mark Widener said. “Over the past decade this highly successful program has allowed the Florida National Guard to modernize its aging armory infrastructure system. This ensures that our armories are safe and modern, in compliance with building codes, are energy efficient, and support the Florida National Guard mission.”

In addition to armory renovations, this year’s budget provides $2.9 million of matching funds to relocate a displaced unit from Daytona to Flagler County. This Unit lost their armory in Daytona when the lease expired and will be moving to a brand new armory in Flagler County with the help of this funding. The budget also allocates $1.7 million for facility maintenance to ensure the benefits of the revitalized armories are sustained for the many generations of Florida Guardsmen to come.

The Florida National Guard also appreciates Governor Scott’s commitment to the education of its military members by recommending additional funding of $200,000 for the “Educational Dollars for Duty” (EDD), bringing the total funding up to the needed $3.7 million to maintain the program.

“Our state leads the way when it comes to educational benefits for our Guardsmen,” said Titshaw. “Thanks to Governor Scott’s support of the Education Dollars for Duty Program, our Soldiers and Airmen have the opportunity to achieve their higher education goals.”

The EDD program is available for Florida National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, and can provide public tuition for the period of the Guard member’s service. The EDD funds can be used for courses that lead toward a Technical Certificate or an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree.

“With classes and books being covered by the Educational Dollars for Duty program, I have been able to fulfill promises I made to myself early in my career,” said Tech. Sgt. Lucas Buehrer, 125th Fighter Wing Fuels Specialist. “It is an excellent benefit provided by the State of Florida and is much appreciated.”

The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget also provides for $2 million for Florida National Guard community related programs that add value back to our Florida citizens. The programs receiving funding are “About Face” and ”Forward March.”

About Face provides youth ages 14 to 18 with life skills training in key areas such as critical thinking and decision making, practical skills such as the development of a personal budget and management of a checking account, and basic work skills. Since 1997, more than 25,000 youth have used the program as a launching pad to greater academic, life, and career success.

Forward March is a training and job placement program designed for older youth and adults to become members of the workforce. Participants receive activity based training on topics that directly relate to the skills required for workplace success. It is taught at National Guard facilities throughout the state.

“The Department of Military Affairs is extremely pleased with the budget allocations this year,” comments Col. Valeria Gonzalez-Kerr, Florida Department of Military Affairs State Quartermaster. “We will be able to maintain excellence as Florida’s Military as well as continue giving back to our community through our numerous outreach programs.”