RICHMOND HILL — Coastal Georgia has nothing to worry about when it comes to the viability of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, according to Col. Townley R. Hedrick.
Hedrick, the garrison commander at Fort Stewart since July, gave the military installations his vote of confidence while speaking at the Leadership Bryan Alumni Association meeting Tuesday at Bubba’s Bistro in Richmond Hill.
The colonel said the installations are in a great location, with four ports they can access and the local increase of unmanned aerial vehicles. He said Fort Stewart and Hunter have doubled the size of UAV operators and have two UAV companies. Aspects such as those lead him to believe that area residents don’t have to worry about either installation being hit hard by potential base realignments and closings.
“I’ve been on a lot of posts and this is my first time here, and there is nothing that matches the strategic deployability from Stewart and Hunter. No post can match what we’re able to do,” said Hedrick, who has served in the military for 23 years.
According to his biography on www.stewart.army.mil, Hedrick has served at several posts, including Forts Benning and Bragg, and has made operational deployments to Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan and disaster-relief deployments in the United States. He is a native of Wellsville, New York.
Hedrick praised the coastal region’s support of the installations and understanding their strategic value. He said there is a “great coastal region brotherhood” that goes together to Washington.
“You’ve got some great leadership in politics for this whole region that understands the power of them lobbying together,” he said.
The colonel also discussed the economic importance of Fort Stewart and Hunter to the region. By its own assessment, the military brings $4.9 billion to the local economy, he said.
“We don’t say that in a bragging way,” Hedrick said. “We love being part of this community, and we’re glad we can be a good economic part of it, also.”
The colonel also updated Leadership Bryan alumni about new aspects at Fort Stewart. He said that for the first time in a while, almost the entire 3rd Infantry Division is back, and there is a new division commander in Maj. Gen. James Rainey, who assumed command in August.
“We are slowly getting him out and about so that he can meet the local community,” Hedrick said.
Also new in garrison leadership are Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud and Brig. Gens. Douglas C. Crissman and Timothy McAteer.
“We’ve got some great leadership that has come into the division, so that’s what I’m most excited about,” Hedrick said.