By Ed Brock
It was the plaque in her father's memory that most touched Kay Levering, daughter of Army Col. Thomas J. Kane.
Kane, who is also known as the father of the Army's bomb disposal program, is the namesake of the new headquarters for the 52nd Ordnance Group at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park. Levering and her husband Jack Levering came from Leesburg, Fla. on Tuesday for the official opening of the facility.
"When we saw the memorial plaque she became very emotional," Jack Levering said.
"I'm just awestruck," Kay Levering said. "This is your father, you don't think of him that way."
The $5.6 million facility, dubbed Kane Hall, consists of two single-story buildings that will have parking for 80 vehicles and a large motor pool. The mission of the 52nd Ordnance Group is to dispose of all kinds of explosives and they have completed that mission in Bosnia, Afghanistan and most recently Iraq and Kuwait. The group includes the 3rd, 63rd, 79th and 184th Ordnance Battalions.
The groundbreaking for the buildings was held in November, just months before the deployment to Iraq.
"We were very proud at the time. It was great to know that we were going to have a modern building to move into," said the group's commander Col. Steven Moores. "We monitored the building by computer. As we saw the walls going up we knew it would be appropriate to dedicate this building to the man who started it all."
Serving as a major in World War II, Kane contributed to the activation, organization and implementation of the Army's bomb disposal program. In 1941 Kane established a bomb disposal school at the Ordnance Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland and in 1944 he went to England where he created bomb disposal plans, techniques and tools.
"I'm sure Col. Kane would be very proud of the young men and women in the (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Program today," Moores said.
The new facility replaces the World War II era buildings that previously housed the unit.
"Those buildings are older than the people who inhabit them and older than most of the soldiers in the Army," said Maj. Gen. Julian Burns, Deputy Chief of Staff with Army Forces Command, in his address to the crowd.
The new buildings, along with other construction ongoing at the base, is a welcome change, said Col. Angela Manos, commander of Fort Gillem and Gillem's parent facility Fort McPherson in Atlanta.
"It really says a lot about our Army that we take care of our soldiers and give them a great place to work in," Manos said.
When asked how the new building is better than their previous quarters, 1st Lt. Shawn Toenyes with the 184th Ordnance Battalion simply waved his hand at the older buildings across the street.
"Considering what we had before, it's definitely a step up," Toenyes said. "We're very proud to be the first people to use the buildings."