This time next year, we will say goodbye to the 2nd Brigade on Fort Stewart.
There was hope that we could rally and fight the decision to cut one of our brigades. Originally, we had four years to fight the decision or to counteract it in some way as to preserve our base and community.
Near the end of 2013, the news came that we no longer had four years. All 10 Brigade Combat Teams that were cut would begin disbanding immediately and finish no later than January 2015. Fort Stewart’s 2nd Brigade being the last scheduled to case its colors. Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade have been told they either would be realigned or reassigned no later than December 2014, and that the first round would occur this spring.
This time next year, our community will be different. Although you may think we have prepared for the loss of our soldiers and their families, there still is the potential for more cuts. Presently, the Army has 564,000 soldiers and is mandated to have only 490,000 by start of 2015. That is 74,000 soldiers to be removed within the year, which could be just round one.
Even though Congress passed the Omnibus Bill and we now have a budget, there still is the Budget Control Act of 2011 to contend with. The act will require certain cuts from areas of the government, and the Department of Defense will receive a large cut to its budget if Congress does not change it.
The leaders of the Army stationed at the Pentagon continue to assess how to cut military spending and still have a strong Army. They have to look at all bases and their ability to grow and adapt to the ever-changing military field.
Lt. Gen. James O. Barclay on Jan. 15 said at the AUSA Aviation Symposium and Exposition that by 2019, the Army could drop to 420,000 soldiers. That’s another 70,000 soldiers gone.
Will Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield receive another round of cuts? There is no way to know for sure. We thought we were safe from the brigade cuts, but it turns out we were not. Do we want to assume that because we were affected in the first round of cuts that the Army leaders will exclude us next time?
The last round of cuts was supposed to go slowly over the next four years so as not to shock the economy in the surrounding military communities. The Army no longer has that option, and now it’s a fast-forward. If another cut is voted and decided upon for the Army, who is to say that one will not get fast-tracked?
The future for military communities is uncertain and, more importantly, the future for our military community is uncertain. We no longer have the luxury to say, “Oh, they would never cut Fort Stewart.” We have to become proactive. We need to get involved with the garrison command on Fort Stewart and Hunter AAF.
We need to show a seamlessly connected relationship between the civilian and military populations. Liberty County residents are lucky, because many of our local officials spent time in the Armed Services. They understand the importance of the military and its effect on this county’s economic growth. Our local governments are involved and continue to grow Liberty County with Fort Stewart and Hunter AAF in mind. They understand the importance of showing our financial dedication in growing our area in order to support our military base.
Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter is an organization that continues to fight for Liberty County, Fort Stewart and Hunter AAF. They fight for all of us in Liberty County and surrounding areas.
When leaders at the Pentagon began to look at areas to cut or close, one of the first things they look at is the relationship between the military base and the local community.
We have a strong working relationship with our garrison command because of Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter making its presence known in Washington. While we are losing the 2nd Brigade within a year, we are not losing the 1,350-plus soldiers who make up a brigade. We are losing only 674 soldiers from Fort Stewart.
We need to support our military. The next few years will be vital for our area. We need to show a united force in Washington so that they will not look towards our region for cuts.
Now is the time to act, join the movement to keep our region solvent and invest in the Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter today. For more information and to get involved, go to www.friendsofftstewartandhunter.com.
Hughes is the finance assistant for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.