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Community celebrates 80th anniversary of ROTC Naval Armory

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The UNC Naval Armory celebrated its 80th anniversary on April 14, 2023 in the Carolina Union Great Hall.

On Friday morning, UNC alumni, ROTC students and guests filled the Carolina Union Great Hall to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Naval Armory. 

Hosted by UNC’s Naval ROTC Alumni Association, the event included speeches from Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-N.C. 4th),  Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Walter Gaskin, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jim White, NROTC alumni and more.

According to campus plans released in 2019, the University has been planning to tear down the Naval Armory in order to create a building for the Institute for Convergent Science. However, UNC NROTC alumni have been working to save the armory and maintain its status as a home base for ROTC programs. 

NROTC student Erin Storch said that the community space the Naval Armory provides is its most important role. 

“I feel like that above everything else that goes on in it, it's our little corner of the campus,” she said. 

After opening with a performance by a student brass band, Friday’s celebration began with a presentation on the history of the military on UNC’s campus and the impact of the Naval Armory given by Sandy Henkel, Naval Armory 80th Anniversary coordinator.

Henke said that the UNC NROTC program was founded in 1940 in order to increase the school’s enrollment in response to World War II. UNC also created a Navy Pre-Flight School in the 1940s and built the Naval Armory in 1943 in order to provide adequate space for ROTC activities.

“Today we celebrate the naval armory and the thousands of leaders who have been equipped over the past 80 years by spending time in this building,” Henkel said. “This is where your and their foundation for service was formed. This building is where you and your predecessors were trained and mentored not just for military service, but for life.”

Secretary Gaskin said it is important to him to preserve the history of locations like the armory. 

“It is more than just the academic prowess, it is the character, integrity and leadership that's developed in these types of institutions,” Gaskin said. “And you cannot shove it away and wipe out the history. It has to be preserved.” 

Foushee also shared that programs like ROTC at UNC make the region “one of the best places in the country to both live and work”.

During his keynote address, Kenny “Pink” Floyd, navy vice admiral and UNC alum, gave the audience challenge coins – tokens of military commemoration. Floyd said that the armory was the center of his experience in Chapel Hill and recognized the important qualities it has developed in students over the years. 

Other alumni shared their memories of the armory as well. 

Colonel Christopher Holland, another alum, spoke about the role the physical space played in his experience in the UNC ROTC. Holland reflected on many memories at the armory but said the personal relationships he fostered there are most important to him. 

At the end of the ceremony, the NROTC Alumni Association also announced that the state of North Carolina recently approved a historical marker in honor of the pre-flight school. The alumni association hopes for it to honor all those from UNC who have served in the military. The marker will be in front of Spencer Residence Hall. 

Following the event in the Great Hall, the day’s celebration also included a memorial service honoring UNC midshipmen and cadets who gave their lives in service. 

According to Rob Rivers, a member of the NROTC Alumni Association Board, the armory represents military spirit on UNC’s campus. 

“In the military, we all know that the band of brothers spirit that we've all heard about is engendered by tradition and history,” Rivers said. “And no finer example of that exists than the naval armory on the campus of the University of North Carolina.” 

@dailytarheel

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