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Bragg starts huge expansion
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FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- A groundbreaking ceremony marked the start Monday of a huge expansion at this sprawling Army base that will bring two new commands under one roof and add thousands of soldiers, civilian workers and their families.

Generals, sergeants and contractor executives used silver shovels to turn up sandy dirt for a 700,000-square-foot headquarters complex. The building will be home to the U.S. Army Forces Command and the Army Reserve Command, both currently at Fort McPherson, Ga. Officials said it is the first time two major commands will be located in the same building.

"It is the future," said Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, commander of the Army Reserve Command. Stultz said his headquarters and that of the Army Forces Command work together to train and deploy soldiers, so it is natural to have them located together.

Gen. Charles Campbell, commander of the Army Forces Command, said the shared location will meet the "growing demand for ground forces" in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The Reserve Command oversees training and equipping more than 200,000 soldiers, including 40,000 now on active duty. Forces Command oversees the same for more than 750,000 active duty and reserve soldiers. The two commands will have a total of between 2,000 and 3,000 military and civilian workers at Fort Bragg.

Campbell said reserves and National Guard would be deployed more in the coming years.

The commands are moving to Fort Bragg under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law passed by Congress.

Officials said the $300 million building will be the centerpiece of all actions that will take place as a result of the 2005 BRAC decisions. It is expected to be ready by July 2011 and the contractor is expected to hire local workers during the construction, said Brigadier Gen. Joe Schroedel, commander of the South Atlantic Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Planners said Fort Bragg will grow from its current 50,000 soldiers and civilians to about 70,000.

A regional task force created to plan for growth in 11 counties near the base said local schools will get more than 7,000 new students in five years. The report estimated that more than $300 million will be needed to building schools and provide services.

State Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said the project will boost the local economy, but will provide some challenges in getting funds for schools and roads during the declining economy.

Likening the headquarters to a new corporate headquarters, Rand said the state will "do what we need to do" to improve infrastructure and education.

Paul Dordal, executive director of the BRAC Regional Task Force that compiled the report, said Fort Bragg already is the largest Army post in the nation and will get larger.

Both new commands manage a combined total about $30 billion in defense funds. Some employees will move from Georgia and others will be hired locally and officials said about 600 to 700 new jobs will have to be filled.

The report said the region will gain more than 40,000 in population, including 25,000 in military families.

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