MILCON: Fort Benning Expanding
March 11, 2008
<i>Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles about installations affected by the Army's most comprehensive restructuring of forces since World War II and largest military construction program ever. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it will manage a $40 billion construction program over the next five years. This construction will enable growing the Army, converting to a modular force structure, BRAC, and re-stationing of forces from overseas.</i>
The planning for the expansion at Fort Benning, Ga., began in 2001. Since then more than $1 billion in construction to support Soldiers and their families have either been completed or under construction by 2011.
The expansion brings together the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Benning's Infantry School into one consolidated installation.
Groundbreaking for the consolidated Maneuver Center of Excellence, the name of the combined Armor and Infantry training, took place in January 2008. The first phase consists of a $244 million trainee barracks project. Another similar project kicks off in early spring. In total, two battalions-worth of trainee barracks will grow on two sites at Fort Benning. Each site consists of five company buildings, five training barracks, and a dining facility. Each battalion will have its own headquarters adjacent to the barracks. Each barracks will have its own physical training area, and each battalion will have a running track. One of the sites will also host the brigade headquarters and a parade field.
Construction companies have less than two years to complete the barracks. The headquarters and command buildings will take longer.
<b>Quality of Life</b>
In 2007, Fort Benning opened a new 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art fitness center. It contains indoor swimming pools for training and family recreation, a rock-climbing wall, basketball/volley ball courts, racket ball, aerobics, and weight training rooms. Designed to give Soldiers and their families the best experience, the fitness center already provides enjoyment for the Fort Benning community. At a cost of $19 million, Fort Benning's Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith has no equal in the U.S. Army.
In addition, a new $6 million child development center will begin construction in 2008.
When it came to unaccompanied enlisted personnel housing or barracks, attention was given to methods used by private industry and to non-traditional construction methods such as pre-fabricated, pre-engineered, panelized, and modular construction. The barracks will house single soldiers and is intended to be similar to off-post apartment-type housing. A soldier's room includes private sleeping areas, walk-in closets, a shared bathroom and kitchenette and will be wired for telephone, cable and internet access.
In the next few years the Corps of Engineers will replace the hospital at Fort Benning with a new, modern community hospital and clinic with a wide variety of specialties. The phased construction of the estimated $400 million project begins in 2009 and will take up to five years to complete.
Construction and design incorporate high standards in using natural lighting, recycled material, and energy efficiency. Army construction standards require the reduction or elimination of building chemicals that would migrate into the air Soldiers breathe while in their rooms or work spaces. In addition, the design makes maintenance easier with fewer intrusions on Soldiers' private space. Even landscaping reflects the Army's intent to sustain the force with as little impact on the environment as possible. The use of native or drought-resistant plants at Fort Benning not only enhances the beauty of the facilities, it saves on energy and overall maintenance.
(For more information on military construction, see the March issue of Soldiers magazine. Articles in this series were submitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts in conjunction with installation public affairs offices.)