RICHMOND HILL — Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory believes the troops at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield are in a “good position” when it comes to force restructuring and sequestration.
Gregory gave that message to members of the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill on Thursday during its weekly meeting at the Richmond Hill City Center, where he discussed sequestration and a recent study released by the Army that addresses a potential reduction of 8,000 troops at the post.
The study, which Gregory referred to as a PEA, or programmatic environmental assessment, is being driven by a total Army analysis, he said. The PEA was released in January and looks at force restructure at 21 military installations across the Army. On Fort Stewart, it looks at a reduction of 8,000 troops as well as an increase of 3,000.
“There is no guarantee that we won’t lose troops at Fort Stewart, but I would say the odds are that probably we will not be losing any soldiers at Fort Stewart any time soon based on the total Army analysis,” Gregory said.
He explained the study is “really an assessment on the community as a whole and on the installation and how it can handle transition of forces in the Army.”
“This just happens to be near or at the same time as sequester … so people get that confused (and think) the Army is saying we’re losing 8,000 troops at Fort Stewart — not the case,” he said.
“Personally, and I don’t have any inside information unfortunately … I think Fort Stewart and Hunter are in a very strong position,” he said. “One, we have room for space and we have room to expand our troop base without any type of land acquisition, and I believe the Army sees it that way as well.”
The PEA is open for public comment now, Gregory said, and any decision made based on the study should be announced between April and May.
He also addressed sequestration with Rotarians, noting that, with only a few days until Congress makes a decision, tensions are high.
“There is a lot of angst about this, and rightfully so if there would be an impact on Fort Stewart,” he said. “Really, we don’t have any higher-level guidance as to what that would be yet.”
Gregory also discussed the recently announced threat of furloughs for 251,000 Department of Defense employees.
“When you do the math for our local folks here at Fort Stewart and Hunter, that’s 20 percent of their pay for the year they will lose if they’re furloughed,” he said. “We are … in the initial planning stages for a furlough for our folks. They know that; we communicate every day with our workforce.”
Gregory also explained some of the $150 million budget for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, which consists mostly of civilian pay, he said. He noted the post is focusing on saving as much as possible, much like other Army installations across the country.
“Our biggest focus (on saving) has been in the utility department,” he said. “Last year, we saved right around $4 million in energy costs across the installation — a lot of it by conservation programs we’re running.”
The Army also is doing a servicewide contract review to see where additional funds can be saved, he said. Grounds maintenance and custodial maintenance contracts on Fort Stewart are being evaluated.
“A lot of this really is getting back in the Army where it was 15 years ago, where soldiers mowed their own grass and did that type of stuff. But we’ve not done that, and we have people that that would affect their lives in the future if we go down that road,” he said. “It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Soldiers can do it.’”
Other topics Gregory discussed included personnel, troop deployment and activities overseas and conservation efforts. Gregory also answered a few questions before Club President Brice Ladson thanked him for his presentation.
“Col. Gregory, thank you so much, and I hope you feel in this room the tremendous support our club has for Fort Stewart, and we appreciate all of your information,” Ladson told the garrison commander.