Region Gears Up for Expansion
The deputy head of the largest Army command delivered a forecast and a farewell in Pinehurst last week.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Peterson will retire in August and return to his native island of Oahu - the first three-star general officer in American history of native Hawaiian descent.
He spoke to more than 100 community leaders at a Pinehurst Member's Club luncheon Wednesday sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Moore County. U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) commands 80 percent of the U.S. Army, controlling 21 military installations and more than three-quarters of a million soldiers.
That command is moving to Fort Bragg as part of the military's Base Relocation and Closure move, known as BRAC. Peterson and FORSCOM's civilian program manager for BRAC came to deliver a "State of the BRAC" report about what the county can expect over the course of the next 14 months.
"What I want to do is put this in perspective on what FORSCOM does," Peterson said. "We man, train, equip, mobilize, support, sustain, transform and reconstitute forces. Forces Command, to put this in perspective for you, is right now 80 percent of our Army. Literally, the majority of the forces currently deployed across the world today come out of Forces Command. That is the headquarters that you have moving to Fort Bragg, North Carolina."
A September 2011 deadline looms, and FORSCOM must design and build its new headquarters, make arrangements for temporary facilities, help with construction of new base housing and other matters related to the move without missing a step in its primary mission: waging war on many fronts.
The move will have to take place "serially," Peterson said. Some 2,800 people are coming to Bragg, with the first due to arrive this fall. FORSCOM is currently based in Georgia, at Fort McPherson.
The presentation included a projected image of its new headquarters, currently under construction. It is expected to be finished a year from now, which means it won't be ready until a few months before the complete shift deadline.
An old elementary schoolhouse, the Bowley School, a building previously used for auto repair called "the Firestone" and warehouses will have to be used temporarily for the transition. About 450 people will be working out of the old school by October. The rest of the military personnel and regular civilian employees will come in six monthly "serial" moves.
That means 1,200 military members (average pay $93,000 a year) and 1,300 civilian workers (averaging $79,000 annually) are moving to the Fayetteville/Southern Pines/Pinehurst/Carthage area.
"This will be the biggest base in the Army, with a yearly impact on the area of $9.3 billion," Peterson said. "FORSCOM commands between 803,000 and 830,000, with 179,000 deployed across 210 countries. It includes both the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division."
This move must take place while the wars go on with troops moving in and out of places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Studies show it takes two years back home for a soldier to be ready for another year in battle, Peterson said.
"Right now, we have that up to 16 months," the general said. "We are working on 24."
The United States has 56,000 soldiers in Afghanistan now, with 60,000 projected over the next year, he said.
"The Army has three major objectives," Peterson said. "Preparing forces on compressed timelines for repetitive and extended deployments, preserve the all-volunteer Army and be ready for the complex strategic environment of the 21st century."
Attacks on coalition forces in Iraq are down, dropping from 900 per week in 2007 to 50 per week currently, he said. Last fall the civilian death toll reached its lowest level since the 2003 invasion. U.S. troops left Iraqi cities last summer, and Iraqi security forces continue to improve.
The sand is dropping in the Iraq drawdown clock, Peterson said, illustrating his points with projected charts. By next summer, the U.S. is set to begin force reduction in Afghanistan, but much will depend on the risk assessment at that time. The Army is moving from "demand driven" to "supply based" with BRAC at the head of a chain of events paralleling things like midterm elections and looking toward the 2012 presidential election, reassessment of national strategy and a new Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq by 2012.
"It is a delicate balance," Peterson said. "A delicate balance."
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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