Recently, a group of area delegates, known as the Coastal Georgia Military Affairs Council, traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with our state and national leaders regarding issues that concern Bryan County and our neighboring communities.
Among those present for the trip were Bryan County Administrator Ben Taylor; Billy Edwards, assistant to the Bryan County administrator; and me. We went along with Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach; Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown; Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette; Col. (retired) Peter Hoffman, vice president of student affairs at Savannah Technical College; Bill Cathcart, chairman of the Savannah Chamber of Military Affairs Council and Civilian Aid to the Secretary of the Army;; Chris Giorgianni, vice president of government and defense at JCB Inc. in Pooler; Leah Poole, CEO of Liberty County Chamber of Commerce; Hinesville City Manager Kenneth Howard; and Will Ball, counselor to Governor Brian Kemp for Military Affairs and former Secretary of the Navy.
We met with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to discuss national defense and economic priorities for our region. Currently, the Senate is debating the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, S.1790, which will strengthen national security and benefit Georgia’s military installations, including the nearly 90,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the state, among other important defense priorities.
Sen. Isakson told us he looks forward to passing this legislation to support our military members and their families, invest in the warfare of the future, and fortify Georgia’s strategic and active role in our national defense.
This measure, which makes investments in our U.S. military, will benefit both Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, which is why it was important to go and advocate for its passage.
The trip also allowed us the opportunity to collaborate with leaders and stakeholders from neighboring communities so we can stay on top of developments and plans unfolding around us.
Together, we can work to make the region a pleasant place to live, work and do business.
We also met with Sen. David Purdue, who we thanked for his support of a $60 million funding allotment for a new Hunter Army Airfield hangar. We chatted with him about how important the 3rd Infantry Division and our military installations are to this region. We’re grateful for the $4.3 billion economic engine that is Fort Stewart, and all the soldiers and military families who make tremendous sacrifices to keep it running and ensure our safety and freedom.
The trip continued as we gathered with several other lawmakers and leaders, including Rep. Buddy Carter, former Gov. Nathan Deal, Gen. James McConville (who has just been confirmed as the 40th Army chief of staff by the Senate), Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn (the acting Army assistant chief of staff, who once was stationed at Fort Stewart), Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette (assistant chief of staff G-8, who also has served at Fort Stewart), Andy Napoli, the assistant for Base Realignment and Closure, and Col. (retired) Ivan Bolden, chief of privatization and partnerships. At one point in his career, he too was stationed at Fort Stewart.
It was energizing to meet with so many leaders and to see that they truly care about their constituents and the health of our communities, especially as it pertains to the military.
They listened to our concerns and ideas, speaking candidly with our group about the challenges faced by the Coastal Georgia region. Without collaboration and open communication, we cannot meet and overcome those challenges.
Soon after our visit, a colleague who specializes in defense acquisitions, intelligence, appropriations work and congressional relations attended an Army Association breakfast and heard good feedback, which he passed along. Several key leaders said they were impressed by our delegation’s visit and our substantive discussion points. One long-time Army veteran and civil servant said it’s extremely rare for a community to meet with the three most influential Army generals in the Pentagon in one morning. He thought the visit was an absolute home run.
Every community wants to make the needs and visions of its citizens known. In Bryan County, we’re committed to doing more than that; we advocate for our residents - military and civilian - to help ensure that we receive fair representation, adequate funding and sufficient attention at every level.