Nearly 200 people turned out for an Army Force Structure and Stationing Listening Session, Monday at the Richard M. Wiggins Conference Center in Fayetteville.
The purpose was to conduct a listening session led by Fort Bragg leaders with community representatives pertaining to Army end-strength reductions from the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the possible impacts on the community.
With an annual local economic impact of $10.9 billion and a total supported population of 261,332, Fort Bragg’s impact on the community cannot be understated.
It was during the first Gulf War that surrounding communities began to grasp the significance of Fort Bragg ‘s contributions, fueled by economic losses from a softening housing market and a reduced population, local businesses noticed a significant decrease in revenue.
Monday’s listening session was meant to air what the Army’s current and future plans are regarding upcoming changes in the force. It was also an opportunity for senior Army leadership to gather talking points to take back to the Pentagon.
“It is very, very important from our perspective to hear your concerns and perspective,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
The Army is reducing its active component end-strength by 80,000 Soldiers, from a peak of 570,000 in fiscal year 2010, to 490,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017, said Col. Jeffrey M. Sanborn, Fort Bragg Garrison commander. It will require a reduction of at least eight brigade combat teams.
The Army has announced that the first two BCTs to be inactivated will come out of Europe and that the V Corps headquarters will inactivate upon returning from Afghanistan.
The relationship between deployments and the vitality of the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg and surrounding communities is a longstanding one.
“The deployment tempo affects the Fort Bragg community more than force structure,” Allyn said.
Yet, the community outside the gate wants Army leadership to know how important Fort Bragg is to its vitality.
“This comes down to and hits the ability of every small business owner to put food on the table,” said Doug Peters, president of the Fayetteville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses could lose an estimated $448 million in annual sales volume based on projected force cuts.
Fayetteville and Fort Bragg has gone from separate entities to one community, particularly following the first Gulf War and multiple deployments, Peters explained.
“It’s important that the Army understands the value we place on Fort Bragg,” he said.
Ted Mohn, a retired servicemember and a former Fayetteville City councilman, agreed.
A deployment reduction will equal a reduction in spendable cash, Mohn said.
A reduction essentially returns the force to normal levels seen prior to the surge brought on by those deployments, Allyn said.
Community leaders noted changes that have been made on the state level, with support from the federal government, to support Fort Bragg. Some of those changes include, monies spent on the Murchison Road and the I-295 projects, meeting the mental health care demands of transitioning servicemembers, educational outreach projects for Soldiers, Airmen and their Family members and recovery of the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Consideration should be made for the training, infrastructure and quality of life placed in supporting Soldiers, said Kirk deViere, a local businessman.
The Army will consider quantitative and qualitative analysis in weighing changes that need to be made. Environmental and socioeconomic impacts and community input are categorized as qualitative analyses, while training, well being and mission expansion are classified as quantitative analysis.
“This whole community loves the military, and how do you quantify that? You can’t,” said John Malzone, a local businessman.
“We (the community) are there to help no matter what the decision is — we always have been. We always will be,” he added.
Leadership knows the impact the community has on Fort Bragg and will convey that message to Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, Allyn said.