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Survey could determine post's future
Letter to the Editor
Jim Thomas was elected mayor of Hinesville in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. - photo by File photo

Editor, I would like to preface my comments with the statement that Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield is a vital and virtually irreplaceable national strategic asset. If it is significantly reduced or closed, the loss would be a loss to the nation as a whole. There are very few places in the country like  Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield, where the transportation and training assets readily are available for immediate deployment to virtually anywhere in the world.
If Fort Stewart closes or loses significant numbers of troops, the effects of that decrease would impact the overall readiness of the entire nation. Fort Stewart has 280,000 acres of training land that cannot be replicated on the East Coast of the United States. The training ranges and lands can accommodate all of the military’s current weapon systems. Fort Stewart also provides joint training areas for all services, and those would be extremely expensive to replace. All branches of the military currently use the training areas on Fort Stewart.
Our post and the surrounding communities are a national strategic asset and represent the most responsive and accessible deployment area in the eastern United States. Fort Stewart and the 3rd Infantry Division have the only readily available armor units for use by the National Command Authority on the East Coast. Fort Stewart is in an area that has four seaports that were used for previous deployments — Savannah, Brunswick, Charleston and Jacksonville. There are several military operational areas that are used by all of the services’ aircraft and do not interfere with the FAA and civilian air traffic. This airspace and the seaports represent a most valuable training asset that cannot be replicated once it is lost. The 16,000 soldiers who help operate these training areas are critical to their operation.
As the Army and other services prepare for a reduction in forces caused by congressional budgetary constraints, I am concerned about the size of the reductions. The Army has been downsized after all of the recent conflicts, and some current reductions may be required to right-size the Army. However, the first alternative proposes a loss of 16,000 soldiers and Department of Army civilians from Fort Stewart. Additionally, there would also be a loss of 24,288 family members. This loss greatly would affect the ability of the Army and other services to deploy to the Middle East and other areas of strategic importance to the nation.
The economic losses to the community and the surrounding communities would be catastrophic. The economic impact would be greater than $1 billion dollars in lost income from the loss of the soldiers and $4 billion in economic impact to the entire Coastal Georgia region. The loss also would affect the 10,000 military retirees in local areas and approximately 50,000 military retirees who Fort Stewart currently supports.  
The loss of 16,000 soldiers at Fort Stewart would be a huge economic loss to the local communities but, more importantly, a greater loss to the nation as a whole because of their tactical and strategic value.
The drawdown of the Army and the proposed loss of 16,000 soldiers and civilians, plus the loss of 24,288 family members, would mean that an installation (Fort Stewart/HAAF) that has been named the Army’s best installation five times would be virtually closed, and our soldiers’ quality of life would be lost.
For these reasons, I encourage everyone in our region to voice their concern by emailing or calling 1-855-846-3940.

Jim Thomas, mayor of Hinesville

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