Several members of the local community will travel to Washington, D.C., on Thursday and Friday to thank lawmakers and officials for their support and remind them of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s potential.
A nonprofit organization started 12 years ago by members of the military community, local governments, governmental agencies, businesses and individuals, the Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter is dedicated to enhancing the economic impact of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, according to Executive Director Paul M. Andreshak.
He said the organization is planning its annual trip to Washington to visit with Georgia lawmakers and Pentagon officials to thank them for their past support. The group also hopes to remind them what Stewart-Hunter has to offer as far as further investment or at least sustained funding during these hard economic times. “Stewart-Hunter is a $7-billion-a-year economic engine for this region,” Andreshak said. “We have been selected as an Army Community of Excellence repeatedly since 2003, and the only time we weren’t selected as ACOE was when we weren’t allowed to compete because we had won so often.
“For us to be recognized in this way means we’re doing something right here,” he continued. “It means the military community has a great working relationship with the civilian community, local governments and business. We’re talking to people and listening to people, and we’re serving the needs of soldiers, their families and the community.”
Andreshak; Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas; Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver; Jimmy Floyd with the Heritage Bank; Clay Sikes with the Sikes Group; retired Lt. Gen. William Webster, former Stewart-Hunter commander now living in the community; and others plan to visit Rep. Jack Kingston and both of Georgia’s U.S. Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. They also plan to visit the Pentagon’s Force Development office.
“We’ll remind them about our being an ACOE,” he explained. “We’ll remind them that Stewart is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi, that Hunter has the Army’s longest runway east of the Mississippi and that the port of Savannah is the third largest port on the East Coast.
“During these times of budget cuts, we want to be sure that our leaders in Washington recognize (Stewart-Hunter’s) capabilities,” he continued. “And if base closures are being made somewhere else, we want them to consider moving those units to southeast Georgia.”
Andreshak noted that Fort Benning had planned to expand by purchasing 80,000 acres in order to accommodate its current growth. Due to budget constraints, however, that plan has been put on hold.
Part of Fort Benning’s growth problem, Andreshak said, was accommodating the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. He suggested that if Fort Benning really needed more room, the Army could unite the 3rd HBCT with the rest of the 3rd ID at Fort
Andreshak said there also is a good chance that an additional 700 soldiers could be coming to Stewart anyway, or they may be offset by an equal number leaving here. These soldiers could include a legal support team, law enforcement, civil affairs, a chemical unit and a unit that maintains the unmanned aircraft system, he said.
“We’re good at what we do here,” Andreshak concluded. “We take care of soldiers and families as part of a larger community. We appreciate the support we’ve been given in the past and appreciate all consideration for future support.”