3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams briefed Hinesville Military Affairs Committee members Tuesday on what to expect from him and the 3rd ID.
The general said the division will focus more on the individual soldier and training for the Army’s modular transformation and emerging role as a contingency force.
Abrams also told HMAC members he would be deploying “with 700 of his closest friends” to Iraq this fall to complete the U.S. military’s final drawdown there. America’s troops currently are slated to leave Iraq by Dec. 31. The general stressed that no decision has been made as to how long the deployment will be, but — in his opinion — it could last a year.
“The government of Iraq is considering asking us to stay longer,” Abrams said. He added that military leaders must anticipate changing circumstances and plan for them.
HMAC, in turn, informed the general of its purpose and programs, including preparations for the annual Independence Day celebration to be held at Fort Stewart. HMAC members and volunteers coordinate the food court portion of the event each year.
Abrams said the fabric of the 3rd ID is “frayed” from back-to-back deployments in the past 10 years, and it’s time for division leaders to address the many issues soldiers face due to war’s multiple stresses. He specified such issues as suicide, marital strife, substance abuse and misconduct.
“It’s sort of become the landscape of the division,” the general said. “It set me back on my heels a little bit.”
Abrams intends to initiate a standard Marne duty day and duty week, increase contracts with mental-health providers off post and increase counselors on post, as well as look for more opportunities to help soldiers release stress in positive ways.
The general also informed HMAC members that Col. (promotable) Christopher Hughes has been positioned to serve as the rear division commander during the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion’s upcoming deployment. Hughes currently serves as deputy commander of support.
Abrams said Col. Thomas James left Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield last week for his new assignment. James will serve as the U.S. Army Armor School commandant at Fort Benning, according to a Department of Defense advisory. James most recently served as the 3rd ID’s deputy commander of maneuver.
Abrams also touched on the Army’s new fiscal prudence, due to the economy’s downturn. He said the Army must cut its force by about 22,000.
“We do have a fiscal crisis going on,” the general said. “We all have to do our fair share.”
Abrams said the Army and the installation still will have enough funds to operate efficiently.
“(You) spend it like you spend your own money,” he said. “Get what you need, not what you want.”
On a lighter note, the general said communities in Coastal Georgia, especially Hinesville and Liberty County, do not seem to suffer from “deployment fatigue” as do communities in other parts of the country. Residents here staunchly support soldiers and their families, he said.
“None of us take it for granted,” Abrams said. “I’m blown away by your generosity. Not everyone is this supportive.”
“I personally am grateful for all your help on the 4th of July,” he added.
HMAC hospitality co-chairman P.J. Schneider briefed Abrams on the committee’s efforts for the 4th of July “Worth Fighting For” celebration. The event will culminate July 4 with games and activities from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Newman Field.
A free concert featuring Fantasia and the Zac Brown Band will begin at 6 p.m. at Donovan Field East and fireworks will begin around 10 p.m.
HMAC, along with local businesses, civic organizations and some local governments, will serve an estimated 13,000 meals to soldiers and military family members this year.
Schneider said food court volunteers once served as many as 23,000 meals during Operation Iraqi Freedom III, circa 2005-06.
However, volunteers still are needed to cook and serve food from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. July 4, he said. So far, HMAC has roughly 15-20 groups committed to helping with the food court, Schneider said.
To volunteer, call P.J. or Melinda Schneider at 884-5599.