“Army force structure stationing change” — what does that mean for Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield and the surrounding area?
In accordance to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno announced June 25 that by the end of 2017, the Army will reduce the number of soldiers by 80,000. That reduction, which is 14 percent of the Army, is in compliance only with the Budget Control Act and has nothing to do with sequestration. It also does not take into consideration the possible socio-economic impact that the loss of soldiers and their spouses will have on the surrounding civilian communities.
Odierno stated that Fort Stewart would lose one of its three brigade combat teams. A BCT is made up of 3,500 to 5,000 soldiers, and our base will lose only 1,372 soldiers, as the remaining soldiers will be reassigned into one of the two remaining BCTs. Fort Stewart/HAAF will see only a 6 percent decrease in soldier population. The leaders and soldiers of Fort Stewart continue to show the necessity and functionality of our infrastructure and, by doing so, kept the amount of soldiers lost under this initiative lower than most other bases.
Fort Stewart/HAAF currently holds two heavy BCTs and one light infantry BCT. There are many scenarios the Army is weighing to determine what the final mix of units will be at any one installation. Fort Stewart has the infrastructure to house and train heavy or light brigades. It also has more room to grow and was postured to do just that in 2009, when the decision was made not to increase the number of units at Fort Stewart/HAAF. That fact is a major one to be used in fighting any decision to cut Fort Stewart’s population.
To be successful, we as a community have to do a lot of lobbying at home and in Washington, D.C., starting now and continuing until 2017. We have to remind the Department of Defense and Congress that tax dollars were used to update the installation. We also need to remind them that this region was declared the Army Community of Excellence five of the last nine years. It is and will remain the premier place where soldiers and families are held in high regard and welcomed as part of the community.
It is essential to remember that if we downsize, we are not just on a glide path to lose 1,372 soldiers but also the families associated with them. These are friends, neighbors and citizens of the area. The total loss could well be over 2,000. It is important to remember that in the past this community has come together to support our soldiers who serve and protect us. This is again one of those times. Nothing is set in stone, and there is still time to amend the decision. But we have to start now!
It is important to get involved. We must continue to support Fort Stewart by attending meetings and sessions that deal with anything that may affect Fort Stewart/HAAF’s population, sequestration, budget cuts, base closures, etc. Get vocal, become active, join organizations that support Fort Stewart and keep our community connected with our soldiers. Do not wait until it’s too late. Remember, we do not know how continued sequestration will affect Fort Stewart. This budget cut cost the Army 14 percent, with Fort Stewart potentially losing 6 percent of its military population.
Now is the time to act. Join the movement to keep our region solvent and invest in the Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter today.
For more information and to get involved, go to www.friendsofftstewartandhunter.com.
Hughes is the finance assistant for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.