More civilian jobs on Fort Stewart will be cut over the next two years.
Col. Kevin F. Gregory, the post’s garrison commander, talked about the cuts during the State of the Garrison Address at the Progress Through People Luncheon, hosted by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday at the Liberty County School System’s Transportation Center.
Gregory said Fort Stewart had 1,526 civilian employees in 2011. By 2017, that number will be cut by nearly half, to 776.
“We received about a 41 percent cut in workforce since 2011,” he said. “With the reduction of soldiers and civilian personnel, we went from $5.2 billion (economic) impact to $4.9 billion impact, which includes everything — buying power, salaries, taxes, impact aid, losing those families in the school system. All your infrastructure is impacted by those dollars, in essence.”
Gregory said that by the end of 2020, the U.S. Army’s plan is to go downsize to a total force of 450,000 soldiers. He mentioned that many top officials have made it known that at that number, the Army is going to struggle to meet national-security objectives and carry out national military strategy.
“The reality is that we’re still in about 150 countries around the world; 3,999 soldiers from Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield are someplace around the globe now, not here at home,” Gregory said.
He also told the business and community leaders gathered for the Chamber luncheon that Fort Stewart has won the Army of Community Excellence Award for the sixth time.
“That means for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield — as far as business operations, efficiency and leadership through the Army — Fort Stewart was the top installation in 2015,” Gregory said. “A lot of that stems from the team we have on board and from you all, the community, and the support.”
The award ceremony will be June 23 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in northern Virginia.
Gregory announced that there will be a welcome-home ceremony for Vietnam veterans at 5:30 p.m. Friday, June 19 at Cottrell Field.
“Many of them never received any type of welcome home from Vietnam,” he said. “Today’s welcome-home ceremonies across the nation, since Desert Storm, are due to those Vietnam veterans who did not receive any type of treatment that they deserved. They are the ones across the nation who said, ‘We’re not going to let this happen to soldiers in the future.’”
The ceremony will be similar to what is done for soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Veterans will march across the parade field, stand in formation, report in and then have the redeployment ceremony. Families will be able to run and greet the veterans.
The crepe myrtle trees along Warriors Walk are blooming, Gregory said. He described the entire walk as being in full, white bloom. However, there is a drainage problem in one area that will get fixed. He thanked all for their support in letting people know about Warriors Walk for Memorial Day.
“If you went out there on Memorial Day, the place was packed,” he said. “There were families out there, Gold Star families, visiting their trees and taking photos. It was a very touching day.”
Gregory will soon leave Fort Stewart for Fort Knox, Kentucky. He said there will be a change of command for the garrisons at both Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Lt. Col. Michael Squires will replace Lt. Col. Clarence W. Bowman III at Hunter. Squires is a native of Cleveland who taught economics at West Point. The change-of0command ceremony for Hunter is set for 10 a.m. June 17 at Truscott Air Terminal.
Gregory’s replacement is Col. Townley Hedrick. Hedrick attended James Madison University and majored in math. The change ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. July 1 at Club Stewart.
A question was asked from the audience about the return of Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, the 3rd Infantry Division’s commander. Gregory said Murray is expected back in November from Afghanistan, and that Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Bentley, deputy commanding general – support for the 3rd ID, will return in October.
Daisy Jones, the city of Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program coordinator, asked Gregory about initiatives helping soldiers transition to civilian life.
Gregory said the focus is to talk to soldiers within the first 12 months of service to discuss their future plans.
“We’ll grab the soldier, sit them down and say, ‘What are your plans three years from now?’” he said. “We’re helping them decide at that point, and then we’ll ask them to choose a track — higher-education track, entrepreneurial track, technical school track.”
Soldiers in their last 18 months of service will be given the three career options to choose, Gregory said. In the last 12 months, they will be connected to either a business or organization. He also mentioned that Secretary of the Army John McHugh signed a policy last August allowing for soldiers to receive job certification during the last 180 days and while on duty. Gregory said the Army will try to work with local colleges and officials as to who is hiring and brief employers on soldiers’ skills and previous salaries.
“Thank you, to all of you personally. It will be a tough day for the Gregorys to pack up and leave Coastal Georgia,” Gregory said. “I tell new soldiers every week at the newcomers brief that they will not report to or go to a better area of the country, where everybody is so receptive to what they do. The true Southern hospitality of this region is unmatched. Thank you for all that you do and we do appreciate everything you do.”
To learn more information about participating in the welcome-home ceremony for Vietnam veterans contact Ted Lyles at 767-3151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.