Col. Kevin Gregory, U.S. Army Garrison commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, reported to the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce during its Progress Through People Luncheon on Thursday at Connection Church.
Gregory began his the state of the garrison address by updating the chamber on furloughs planned for Department of Defense civilians. He summarized this week’s directive by DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel that civilians will be furloughed one day a week for 11 weeks after July 8.
“The good news is we planned for 22 days, but it’ll only be 11,” Gregory said. “The bad news is our civilian workforce will see a reduction in pay of eight hours a week, which for (some) will amount to about $10,000.”
He suggested their pay reduction will affect the entire community because they’ll have less money to spend.
He waived a flyer that contains information about Stewart-Hunter, especially its economic impact. Stewart-Hunter’s total annual economic impact for Georgia is $5.6 billion. The salaries of about 11,000 soldiers, DoD civilians and military contractors living in Liberty County are nearly $486 million a year, and the more than 3,000 retired soldiers’ pay amounts to nearly $66 million a year. Nearly one-third of the installation’s soldiers, DoD civilians and civilian contractors live in Liberty County.
Gregory also talked about reducing the civilian workforce. He said at the beginning of the year, the installation had about 1,100 civilians. By the end of the fiscal year — Sept. 30 — they expect the number to be down to about 900 with nearly all the cuts absorbed through attrition. He said a mock reduction in force was conducted that identified employees whose jobs were at risk and efforts are being made to offer them jobs at other installations.
He said 3rd ID soldiers are continuing to redeploy from Afghanistan and Kuwait, noting that 145 returned home Wednesday. He said the headquarters battalion is scheduled to return in August and about 90 percent of the division’s 21,000 soldiers will be home by December. He emphasized that when the troops are home, there are no immediate plans for another deployment.
The 3rd ID units will go into a training cycle while also preparing for the Army’s plans cut troops, he said.
Gregory also talked about the Army’s new transition program for soldiers leaving the service called Soldier for Life. He said the Army is helping soldiers planning retirement or approaching the expiration of their term by helping them identify where they’re going, and preparing for civilian life.
“If any of you have positions you’re looking to fill or if you know any employers that are looking for soldiers to hire, please let us know,” Gregory said, then referenced efforts by the state to assist returning soldiers and retiring veterans, including the recently created Returning Veterans Task Force. “The state of Georgia does a great job helping soldiers find jobs with enterprise zones and tax incentives to employers.”