Fort Benning Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. – Fort Benning hosted a visit from two high-level Army officials June 25 and highlighted the post's efforts in a variety of key areas including renovation of Family homes and Soldier barracks, and energy initiatives.
Bryan M. Gossage, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, visited the post accompanied by Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.
Gossage was sworn in May 18 and is principal deputy advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army, on all matters involving installation policy, oversight, and the coordination of energy security and management.
"His objective was to look at, really, housing and energy resilience," said Brandon Cockrell, chief of the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning's Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.
"He's been in the seat five or six weeks, so we were one of his first stops to really see how installations are operating," Cockrell said.
Gossage is also responsible for policy and oversight of sustainability and environmental initiatives; resource management including design, military construction, operations and maintenance; Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC); privatization of Army Family housing, lodging, real estate, utilities, and the Army's Installation Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) programs.
Surash is responsible for overall program direction, establishment of policies, development and refinement strategies, and oversight for implementation of all programs and initiatives related to energy and water resilience and sustainability within the Army. As the Army's Senior Energy Executive, he coordinates and integrates both installation and operational energy programs and strategies.
Escorting them during the visit was Col. Matthew Scalia, USAG Fort Benning's commander.
The visit began with a luncheon at the post's Benning Club, attended by various Fort Benning officials as well as the manager of local Chattahoochee County, a representative of the Columbus, Georgia mayor's office, and representatives from the Columbus, and Phenix City, Alabama, chambers of commerce, said Cockrell.
Among matters discussed was the role Fort Benning plays in the region's strategic development plan, called "Columbus 2025," Cockrell said.
Much of the focus during the luncheon was the "strong linkage" between those local communities and Fort Benning, which includes Soldiers, Department of Army civilians, and contractors, as well as Family members and military retirees.
"Seventy percent of our Soldiers live off the installation in that community, and then all of our DA civilians and all of our contractors live in that community," Cockrell said.
"So we discussed how we're nested into the region's Columbus 2025 plan, which is their regional prosperity initiative, which is basically their strategic plan, and their five lines of effort and how we're nested in each of those."
Fort Benning officials also outlined for Gossage and Surash an overview of the post's principal units and functions.
Fort Benning is home to the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, which trains Infantry and Armor Soldiers. Those branches together comprise the Army's maneuver force. It also trains, among others, those hoping to become Rangers, paratroopers, and snipers.
Also discussed while at the Benning Club was Fort Benning's role in the Army's comprehensive 10-year facility investment plan, which looks at how the Army invests resources in facilities in ways that support top priorities set by senior Army leaders, Cockrell said.
"It actually sets projects at each installation," he said of the plan.
"There's always gonna be more need than there is resources, so how we do it in the most intelligent way and make sure that everything we're doing facility-wise or building new, is directly linked with the Army senior leader priorities and decisions," said Cockrell.
Post officials also briefed the visitors on Fort Benning's various preventive maintenance programs. "We talked about how we sustain the installation's facilities," he said.
Following the luncheon Gossage and Surash were driven to the Alabama side of the sprawling installation for a look at its 216-acre solar farm, which generates electricity and is run in partnership with a utility company, Georgia Power, Cockrell said.
The visiting officials were then taken to a barracks of the type that are slated for eventual "wholesale renovation" under the Army's Facility Investment Plan, once funding comes in beginning in the 2021 fiscal year, Cockrell said.
That was followed by a tour of two homes, one an older "historic" structure and one recently prepared for new occupancy, said Keith R. Lovejoy, Housing Division chief with USAG Fort Benning's Directorate of Public Works (DPW).
Officials highlighted Fort Benning's robust program of extensive renovation, combined with a regimen of stringent home inspections and rigorous maintenance practices, an effort that began in late 2018 and is ongoing.
The visit ended with an office call between Gossage and MCoE's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito. It was under Brito's leadership that Fort Benning undertook the large-scale effort to do extensive home renovation and improved standards of housing service.
"Their visit," Scalia said of Gossage and Surash, "was an excellent opportunity for us to highlight Fort Benning's successes and challenges in multiple areas including housing, barracks, infrastructure, and energy programs, while receiving the strategic picture and priorities from senior Army leadership. With each stop during the visit, it was clear that we have an exceptional team and installation."