Fort Stewart’s new garrison commander, Col. Kevin Milton, took time to have lunch with Liberty County’s business and government leaders Thursday, introducing himself and his family to the community.
Milton, who worked at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., for the past few years, greeted the crowd by expressing his happiness at being back in a small town, similar to the one in Virginia where he was born.
"I can relate to small towns and I’m proud to be associated with a small town," Milton said. "We’re ecstatic to be here."
He said he’s looking forward to strengthening the already strong partnership between the installation and the community. It’s a relationship that he said is vital to the success of both parties.
"We’re linked together for all of eternity as far as I’m concerned," Milton said. "Our livelihoods depend on each other."
As for the future, Milton said there are three major projects in the works that concern both civilian and military residents.
First, Fort Stewart officials want to open up Wright Army Airfield to leasing options for commercial business, which could help increase commerce in the area.
"This would benefit Fort Stewart and the local community," Milton said.
The second joint project is the new middle school that will open on Fort Stewart, but will accommodate both non-military and military children. The school is currently scheduled to open in fall 2010.
The third project is a mass transit system that will serve Liberty County residents and make stops both on- and off-post.
Milton also touched on expected growth in the area. He said he understands residents’ disappointment about not getting a 5th Brigade Combat Team, but said he’s getting information that troops are still coming. Milton said a few smaller units are coming to Fort Stewart and they’ll bring at least 800 soldiers.
"I know that’s not the 3,000 you were expecting, but we’re still growing," he said.
Milton, who made it clear there are no guarantees right now, said there also are a few brigades stationed in Europe that will be returning stateside. They do not yet have a designated post. He said there are many reasons why Fort Stewart would be a good option for one of those brigades.
"The future may not be as bleak as it seems right now," he said.