By Ed Brock

More than just concrete and steel beams, the newly constructed Army Reserve Center on the grounds of Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park is a symbol.

"This symbol represents the many faces of the Army Reserve," said Maj. Gen. Jamie Barkin, commander of the 3rd Medical Command, one of the building's tenants. "That's what the Army Reserve is, many faces, taking the many resources of the civilian world and making the Army better."

The cold rain that had fallen Friday morning cleared just in time for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the center that was held in Building 900, part of a 4-building campus that is Phase I of the Reserve Center. The other buildings include a vehicle washing facility, an unheated storage building and a medical storage building, all built for about $18.5 million.

Building 900 is a training facility that will fit 1,600 people into its 133,181 square feet. Along with the 3rd Medcom, the building's tenants will include the Army Reserve's 310th Psychological Operations Company, the Military Intelligence Readiness Command, the 427th Medical Logistics Battalion, the 3297th U.S. Army Hospital, the 81st Regional Readiness Command, the 802 Ordnance Company, the 1015th Maintenance Company and the 300th Military Public Affairs Detachment.

Phase II will include a vehicle maintenance facility and a heated storage building. It will cost $8 million and construction on it is expected to begin at the end of this month and might be finished by early 2006.

The center will centralize the Reserve community at the fort, 427th commander Col. Carrie Uttergarrett said.

"The soldiers are very positive. They think they're special because they've got something new," Uttergarrett said. "It's a positive work environment. It just says you're special."

The new facility will be a great improvement for the community, Forest Park Mayor Chuck Hall said during the ribbon cutting ceremony.

"And when I say the community I mean both the Forest Park community and the Fort Gillem community," Hall said. "We're one and that's the way we always want it to be."

Many of the Reservists who will work out of the building are currently deployed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Maj. Gen. Alan Bell, commander of the 81st Regional Readiness Command, and he also called the building a symbol.

"To walk into this building today and see what a symbol it is of the great honor of the Army Reserve, it just touches my heart," Bell said.

A group of veterans also attended the ceremony, including Mike Starnes with the American Legion Georgia headquarters in Stockbridge. Most of the units moving into the new building have been working out of World War II-era buildings.

"I think they deserve the upgrades they're getting," Starnes said. "This base today is so run down and dilapidated it's pathetic."

Other upcoming projects include a new $5.6 million building for the 52nd Ordnance Group that is scheduled to open in May and a $29 million, 88,662 square foot facility for the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory that should be completed next year.