FORT GORDON, Ga. (Feb. 12, 2014) -- Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh got an up-close look at the future of Fort Gordon Monday, during an afternoon visit to the installation.

With the installation poised to receive almost 4,000 additional service members and civilians by 2019, the Army's top official spent Monday afternoon hearing about plans for Fort Gordon's growth and meeting with Soldiers who are training to become the next generation of military cyber warriors.

McHugh observed training in two of the newest courses at the U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence -- the enlisted Cyber Network Defender course and the warrant officer Information Protection course.

"They will play a major role in the future of our Army," McHugh said. "It's so critical that we prepare these young men and women to succeed in the critical task of defending our communications systems; the price of failure is very high. But I'm very impressed by the training that's taking place, by the cadre providing it and the young men and women going through it."

Fort Gordon officials briefed McHugh on plans to receive and support new units, as well as on construction needed to provide facilities for their operations. Among the units already arriving at Gordon or scheduled to arrive in coming years are the Army Cyber Command's headquarters, a cyber protection brigade, an aerial intelligence brigade, additional Air Force and Navy intelligence units, and a Cyber Center of Excellence. Combined with family members, the growth is expected to bring almost 10,000 new people into the Fort Gordon community.

"Through these stationing assignments, the Army is creating in Fort Gordon a hub for advanced technology and highly skilled warriors that will ensure our advantage on the battlefields of tomorrow," McHugh said. "Managing this growth will be a complex process, but the installation leadership team on post has a solid plan."

McHugh also thanked the civilian communities surrounding Fort Gordon for their steadfast support to the installation and its service members over the years.

"We are confident in our decision to place these key units at Fort Gordon because we know the quality of the relationship between Fort Gordon and its neighbors in the Central Savannah River Area," McHugh said. "We know the cities and towns around Fort Gordon will wrap their arms around these new families, and we will work closely with our civilian counterparts to ensure that we help them prepare for this growth, even as we're preparing for it ourselves."

Maj. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, hosted McHugh during the visit. They began their itinerary by having lunch with Soldiers from Army units across the installation, representing the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, Installation Management Command, U.S. Army Medical Command and the Network Enterprise and Technology Command.

Attendees were able to ask questions about the Army's future and how it affects them, and get answers directly from the service's top leader.