More than 10,000 soldiers and family members will be joining Fort Stewart and the Hunter Army Airfield in the next five years as part of reorganization and new construction program, according to Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Colonel Todd Buchs, who spoke to the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center Board of Directors Wednesday.
"I appreciate the opportunity to come talk about our community," he said. "Right now, the Army is investing heavily in the installation of both bases, which are strategic national assets as the war on terror continues…We could not have achieved the success we have had without the continued and sincere support from all these surrounding communities."
The Grow the Army Stationing Plan was announced by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army as the largest organizational change for the Army since WWII and will drastically impact the local installations, Buchs said.
"Over the next five years, we’re going to change, create new, or receive from other locations, 51 units for Hunter and Fort Stewart," he said. "This is the fifth largest change that will occur in the entire Army. That tells you the magnitude we’re facing in the next five years."
By 2013, Buchs estimates Fort Stewart will have increased by some 4,300 soldiers and 5,000 family members.
"From 2010 to 2011, families and soldiers will be arriving. This will require the huge construction program," he said. "Modernizing our facilities allows new units to operate; older facilities just aren’t cutting it anymore."
Buchs said from an economic standpoint, this will create a lot of activity for local contractors, busi
nesses, real estate agents and builders.
Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said the influx should provide a big boost to the local economy.
Buchs said there also is growth at Hunter. He said childcare facilities are lacking on and off base, so the community needs to be prepared.
Buchs said there are many reasons to feel pride in the installations.
"These soldiers believe in what they’re doing, they know they’ve made a difference. There is so much success to talk about in Iraq, I see it everyday," he said. "Their families are voting to stay here because they feel the love and local concern our communities are providing. I want to tell you how proud I am. You should be proud too, because you’ve contributed to that success in our community."
By July, all 3rd ID soldiers will be back except for the 4th brigade, who left later and are slated to return in January. Major Rick Lynch is slated to return to Fort Stewart on June 2.