Civilian leaders and residents come out for listening session
May 8, 2013
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Twenty-five Fairbanks area leaders and residents spoke in favor of keeping Fort Wainwright population at current or higher levels at a listening session April 22.
Maj. Gen. Michael Garrett, commanding general of United States Army Alaska, hosted the session to gather comments from the local community to send back to Department of the Army as the Pentagon begins the process of downsizing the Army.
Garrett opened the session with a brief review of the Army's plans for the future. One option that exists for Fort Wainwright is the elimination of a brigade combat team, a loss of about 5,000 Soldiers. Another possible option is a gain of about 1,000 Soldiers.
Plans call for a reduction of 80,000 Soldiers and at least eight brigade combat teams by the end of fiscal year 2017. DA representatives from the Army's G3-5-7 office attended listening sessions around the Army, including the one held here Monday. The meetings are occurring at Army posts where the combined military-civilian population is at least 5,000 people.
About 100 people attended the meeting, including the mayors of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, City of Fairbanks and City of North Pole; representatives of the three congressional offices; Interior legislators; Alaska Native leaders; businessmen and women and local residents.
The speakers listed a number of reasons for keeping Fort Wainwright at its current level or increasing the number of Soldiers.
Several of the civilian leaders cited the strategic location of the installation, with easier access to Pacific Rim locations and the polar route to Europe and the Middle East. One speaker said when he was growing up in Fairbanks Pan American Airways flew from New York to Fairbanks to Baghdad, because it was the fastest way to get to Baghdad.
Others discussed the economic benefits of keeping the installation's size, to both the Army and the local community, as well as the devastating effects that would result from the loss of a brigade combat team.
They talked about the various partnerships the two communities have formed and the relationship shared between the military, the civilian community, the university and the commercial airport. Examples they shared included the Joint Land Use Study, the Joint Pacific Alaska Complex and a mutual aid agreement with Fairbanks International Airport.
Many of those who spoke at the meeting brought up the subject of the vast training areas and the opportunities they afford the Army and the Air Force, opportunities that do not exist anywhere else.
Nearly all of the speakers referred to the relationship the military and civilian communities share. They talked about the support area residents extend to the military installations, among them military discounts; special events like Military Appreciation Banquet, Military Appreciation Day, Community Partnership Day and support to Families when units are deployed.
Garrett reminded the group that this feedback-gathering session is one of the early phases of the Army's transformation. There are more steps to be completed before leaders at the top of the Army will make a decision on just where cuts will be made. That decision is not expected until this fall at the earliest.