Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton told Liberty County Chamber of Commerce members Thursday what local residents can expect from their Army neighbor.
“We’ll have the division here for a while,” Milton said, referring to the one- to two-year reset phase the 3rd Infantry Division brigades now are in.
“We’re just training for unspecified missions,” he said. The American military is undergoing a gradual pull-out from Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore large-scale deployments currently are not planned, the colonel said at First Baptist Church in Hinesville, site of the address, which was part of the chamber’s Progress Through People luncheon.
Milton told area leaders and business people that smaller units will locate to Fort Stewart from now until 2014, including a chemical company and an unmanned aerial unit. He said about 240 new soldiers and their roughly 250 family members soon should call Fort Stewart home.
Milton told the crowd the Army leadership has decided to bring a brigade back to the United States from Europe in 2015, but it has not yet been determined where the brigade will be assigned.
“We’re as likely as anyone else on planet Earth to receive them,” he said.
Still, given Fort Stewart’s size and thousands of acres of range on which to train, the installation could accommodate more soldiers, Milton said.
As for the 14,000 soldiers already on post, about 4,000 more from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will return home from Iraq “by the 4th of July,” according to Milton.
The garrison commander said the Vanguard brigade then will move into its new area off Highway 144.
“Their complex is its own little access space,” he said. Milton said he has some concerns about traffic but added the installation is working to resolve any traffic issues. The colonel said turn lanes are being installed on Highway 144 and a traffic light will be placed at the intersection of Highway 144 and old Sunbury Road. The road improvements should be completed by August, when redeployed 4th Brigade soldiers return from block leave, he said.
Milton also addressed budget cuts and promised that the garrison would continue to provide all necessary services to soldiers and their families despite an $8 million shortfall.
“We, as an Army, are normalizing our spending,” he said. “We’ll see some reduced funding, but I don’t think you’ll see much of a difference.”
The Army’s budget for fiscal year 2011 is $239 billion and will be reduced to $216 billion in fiscal year 2012, he said.
Army Reserve Ambassador Luis Carreras also addressed the Defense Department’s budget cuts and stressed the importance of communities and employers supporting those who serve in the Reserves.
“Sixty to 70 percent of (military) support … is coming out of the Reserves,” Carreras said.
Milton said Fort Stewart will continue to work with surrounding communities — as it has with the city of Hinesville — on projects that benefit both the installation and the greater public. He said a water-usage project with Hinesville has saved about $4 million in utility costs.
Fort Stewart also will continue various construction projects, with much of the work being contracted out to local companies, Milton said.
He said the post has $153 million worth of construction projects “out for bid now, fiscal year 2011,” and will bid out $74 million in fiscal year 2012 and $250 million in fiscal year 2013.