Col. Kevin Gregory, U.S. Army garrison commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, delivered the State of the Garrison address Thursday during Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s Progress Through People luncheon at the Liberty County Board of Education Transportation Complex.
Gregory talked about the possibility of more Army-wide troop reductions that could affect Stewart and the surrounding communities.
“About 70 percent of our community is made up of active-duty, retired or former military and their families. And I think in Col. Gregory, we have the best garrison commander of the best Army garrison,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said in introducing Gregory. “They are certainly a good neighbor to this county and especially Hinesville.”
Fort Stewart’s “mayor” thanked Thomas for the introduction, and then said that some of the information he had would allow Stewart’s “neighbors” to provide input on decisions by the Department of the Army.
Gregory said a Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment should be available for public comment in about two weeks.
He said the draft document will include a “worst-case scenario” regarding possible reduction in force for the Army and, subsequently, Fort Stewart. He emphasized that the number given in this scenario is for analysis only and is not currently being proposed by the Army.
That reduction could bring the overall strength of the active-duty Army from 490,000 troops to 450,000 or even 440,000, he said. If sequestration continues through fiscal year 2016, he said the Army could be reduced to 420,000. That would be the smallest Army since the 1930s.
“That’s the very worst-case scenario,” he said. “The good news is, from the perspective of the Army, Fort Stewart is in very good shape.
“The key part is you all right here. There will be public listening sessions this summer. You’ll have an opportunity to comment on the economic impact of (troop reductions) here. At 450,000, the Army can still meet our national security responsibilities. Anything below that ..., well, there could be problems.”
He talked about the number of soldiers who will be lost due to the inactivation of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, noting that most of the 2nd ABCT’s battalions will be divided between the 1st ABCT and 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The total loss of soldiers would be about 1,400. However, he said there’s a good possibility of getting 500 additional soldiers from Fort Gordon, which would offset some troop losses.
Gregory said upcoming events of interest to the community include a “Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fair” June 10 at the National Guard Armory in Savannah, a “USO Career Opportunity Day” June 12 at Club Stewart, and a “Veterans’ Career Fair and Diversity Job Expo” June 24 at Savannah Technical College.
He said plans for July 4 celebrations include a patriotic concert by the 3rd ID Band, a Salute to the Nation and a fireworks display. Fort Stewart public-affairs spokesman Kevin Larson said the public is invited to the event, which takes place on Cottrell Field. Non-ID card holders will have to use the visitors’ lane at Gate 1, he said.
Larson said the Salute to the Nation will begin at 8:30 p.m. with a cannon salute to every state in the union. The salute, which dates back to 1778, will be followed by a fireworks display.
Gregory said he’d try to have more gates open after this year’s event to allow soldiers and families to leave post.
GEO/VISTA Credit Union sponsored Thursday’s luncheon. Among the guests were state Sen. Buddy Carter, Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette, Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes, Hinesville Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and City Councilman David Anderson.