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MCLB opens new barracks

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- A new set of housing accommodations have now been made available to those aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

The installation held a ribbon-cutting for its new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters facility, dubbed Keefe Hall, on Tuesday morning.

The barracks, which have cost $14.7 million to build, will replace the five buildings that the Marines and sailors were living in, buildings that are now 60 years old and contain a cramped living space as well as an old electrical system.

The new facility was named for Gunnery Sgt. Floyd Milton Keefe, a Marine who died while serving in the Vietnam War.

"It's about Gunnery Sgt. Keefe and the great sacrifice he made to this country," said Col. Terry Williams, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany, during Tuesday's ceremony. "He chose (the military life), full aware of the risks.

"To the family of Gunnery Sgt. Keefe, we say thank you. We promise to keep the memory alive."

Among those present at the ceremony were members of the Keefe family, including the gunnery sergeant's widow, Frances Simpson.

"It's quite an honor, it does mean a lot to me," Simpson said. "(Keefe Hall) will be a monument to his memory. He would be astonished (with the new barracks)."

Simpson, a native of Albany, met her late husband when a friend brought him over to her house. She was engaged to him after six months and married to him after another six months.

"He was a wonderful man," his widow recalled. "He was a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. Unfortunately, he never got to meet his grandchildren."

Keefe is survived by Simpson; Donna Lynn Keefe-Spring, his daughter; and Floyd Michael Keefe, his son.

Navy Facilities Engineering Command South East, in conjunction with Suffolk Corporation and other private contractors, implemented energy enhancements in the barracks to reduce the cost to taxpayers. The total annual energy savings are projected to be approximately $37,500 a year.

The system will generate 92,700 kilowatt-hours of "green" electrical energy annually. Seventy-five percent of all the construction debris was recycled, and water consumption will be reduced with low-flow water, shower and toilet fixtures.

In all, there are 100 rooms in the building with amenities designed for two-person occupancy. Each room has a small refrigerator, bathroom, two closets, cabinets, chairs and a two-burner stove.

"It's more of an at-home feeling (in comparison to the old barracks)," said Cpl. Shavonda Williams, who will soon become one of the building's occupants. "The stove stands out. Since we don't have a chow hall here, it's nice to have a stove so we can eat the right things.

"I'm very, very excited. I can't wait to move in."

The barracks also have an on-site laundry room, game and entertainment center, covered pavilions and bicycle racks. Five of the rooms in the facility have been designed to be handicap accessible in order to accommodate wounded residents.

Keefe, a native of Alabama, entered the Marine Corps in 1953 and served as a cook. On March 19, 1969, Keefe rushed to a defensive position when he observed six hostile soldiers had penetrated his camp's perimeter and were moving toward a command bunker. He then moved between the enemy and the command bunker and began delivering rifle fire on the soldiers who were firing at him.

Keefe was eventually knocked to the ground by the explosion of an enemy grenade and was mortally wounded by automatic weapons fire. He was 35 years old.

"He gave his life protecting his Marines and taking care of his Marines," said Maj. Gen. James Kessler, commanding general of Marine Corps Logistics Command, at the ribbon-cutting. "In a way (taking care of the Marines) is what we are doing now.

"As long as this building stands, it will be known as Keefe Hall."