A National Guard unit has been in Ravenna since 1932. The Guard began there on March 18 as "H" Company of the 149th Infantry Battalion under command of Captain M.T. Bach.
"The unit was one of the nation's first to answer the call of war when it was activated on January 17, 1941. Company H was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for additional training before being sent to the South Pacific. Most of the combat the unit experienced during the war was on the Phillippines. The unit was awarded Stars for combat. The men of the unit received a number of additional battlefield recognitions."
The unit trained for active duty at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and was going to come home in December 1941, but instead trained and went to Luzon in the Phillippines. During World War II, some of the men went to Europe while others were sent to the Pacific Theater. When the men returned from the war in 1945, the unit was disbanded. However, the unit was reorganized in October, 1946, as Battery B of the 441st Field Artillery and as Company H of the 149th Infantry. In 1949, the infantry unit was reorganized as artillery.
The unit retained this designation until the late 1960s when it became Detachment 1/Company C of the 201st Engineers. In 1977, the new armory was built and the unit moved from the old armory on Main Street to the current location on Highway 52. Currently, the unit in Ravenna is Company C of the 1/149th Infantry. Some volunteers from the unit served in Desert Storm, but the unit was not activated.
Besides active duty overseas, the Guard in Ravenna has participated in many state active duty missions. The unit was on active duty for 12 days during the snowstorm of 1998, and they have been called on for duty in several other snow emergencies. Other active duty missions include several forest fires (including a commendation for a 1987 forest fire), and two tornadoes. The Guard also participates in community activities, including parades for the Woolly Worm Festival, the Mountain Mushroom Festival, and other community affairs. Clogging, wedding receptions, a mini-circus, Christmas get-togethers, wrestling matches, basketball practices, family reunions, and an Indian artifact show have all taken place at the armory. In addition to the armory, there is only one other large community center in the county - the Fair Barn - so the armory serves as a focal point and gathering place for Ravenna and Estill County.
The unit at Ravenna has won many medals and awards for marksmanship, including the title of state rifle champions nine out of the past eleven years.
Many changes have taken place in the National Guard over the years. The earlier National Guard units were composed entirely of men from Estill County, whereas today the Guard recruits from Powell and Lee counties as well as Estill. Today the regular Army and the National Guard both receive the same type of training
The old Ravenna Armory is a two-story red brick building with an attached one-and-a-half story drill hall located at the rear. The old armory is located at 514 Main Street and now serves as a community Youth Center. The Ravenna Armory was constructed in 1934, and was named Bach Hall after a former captain. There have been many changes have been made to the building, on both the interior and the exterior, including removing windows and bricking them in. An awning has been installed over the front door, and the original double-hung windows have been replaced with new ones. All of the windows in the drill hall have been taken out and walled up.
On the interior, rooms have been divided, the original wooden floor in the drill hall has been taken up and replaced with a concrete floor, and carpeting has been laid. Many of the original doors have been removed on both the first and second floors. A small, concrete-walled basement room (vault) where the weapons were stored is intact, and it has its original door leading down to it. This is one of the few spaces that is untouched and original to the building.
The red brick Motor Vehicle Storage Building (MVSB), located next door to the 1934 armory, is in good condition. The building is a one-and-a-half story, front gabled structure with a large, centered garage door on the front facade. Two small metal casement windows flank the garage door, which has two small air vents above it, and a metal door is on the south side of the garage. The interior of the building is open, and it currently serves as a recycling center for Estill County. The Ravenna MVSB is the only one of the four Motor Vehicle Storage Buildings in Kentucky constructed out of brick rather than concrete block.
Ravenna Motor Vehicle Service Building
The Ravenna/Estill County National Guard armory was built in 1977, and is the second armory constructed in this community. With a population of approximately 900 people, Ravenna is the smallest city in Kentucky to be home to a National Guard unit.
Old Ravenna Armory
The first armory was built in 1934, and is a carbon copy of the old armory in Russellville, also built in 1934. This armory, a two-story red brick structure located at 514 Main Street, was named Bach Hall in honor of Captain M.T. Bach. The current armory is a one-story brown brick and stone building on a concrete slab foundation with an attached two-story drill hall at the rear. The armory is located on the outskirts of town and sits on a little over five acres at the base of a wooded hill. A small motor compound is situated on the right side of the building. Right now, the majority of military vehicles are kept at Barbourville. Before the current armory was completed, military vehicles and weapons were stored at the old armory or the Motor Vehicle Storage Building next door.
Photos and information courtesy Kentucky Heritage Council -- Report No. 25" Inventory and Evaluation of National Guard Armories in the State of Kentucky" - 1999 by Kate Carothers.