New deputy garrison commander braces for expansion
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FORT BENNING GA - In some ways, Fort Benning doesn't look much different than it did 43 years ago - the last time George Steuber was here for advanced individual training and jump school, he said.

After all, headquarters is back at Ridgway Hall, and those massive jump towers remain a signature spectacle on Main Post.

"It's good to see they're still landmarks on the installation," Steuber said. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Last month, he returned to Fort Benning as the new deputy garrison commander. Steuber spent the last four years in the same role at Fort Rucker, Ala. He replaces Chuck Walls, who left after 20 years for a new assignment in Vicenza, Italy.

While a few facilities might look the same, the other differences here are drastic, he said. In terms of population, Fort Benning is seven times larger than Fort Rucker, and that gap is projected to grow with Base Realignment and Closure initiatives and arrival of the Armor Center and School from Fort Knox, Ky.

Steuber said the future Maneuver Center of Excellence, scheduled to become fully operational by September 2011, will support about 144,000 Soldiers, family members and civilians.

"In the next couple of years, Fort Benning is going to increase by over 33,000 people. That's twice the population of Fort Rucker," he said. "For me, that's a real change in scope of operations."

Steuber said Fort Rucker's focus is largely on aviation and aircraft upkeep. The installation conducts all Army pilot training, and one-third of the branch's flying hours are logged there. Its annual maintenance bill is half a billion dollars and 1.2 million gallons of jet fuel are consumed every month, he said.

"Fort Benning's capital is people," he said. "They train the Infantry, the Queen of Battle. That's essential in today's Army.

"Technology is great, but it's boots on the ground that win wars. That's always been the case."

After Steuber's brief stint here as an enlisted Soldier more than four decades ago, he went on to U.S. Army Special Forces training Fort Bragg, N.C., before spending 39 months in Vietnam. He later became an artillery officer.

Steuber headed the joint operations center for Joint Task Force-Somalia from 1993-94. In 1994, he was chief of staff for Task Force Mountain during the invasion of Haiti. From 2001 to 2003, he was the garrison commander at Fort Sill, Okla.

Steuber served more than 37 years on active duty and in reserve component assignments, retiring as a colonel in 2004.

His top priorities at Fort Benning include taking care of all post tenants and ensuring a smooth transition to the MCOE, he said.

"The other piece is you can never look at Fort Benning as an island unto itself," he said. "We work with community leaders and organizations in the seven counties and two states surrounding us on a daily basis ... Maintaining good relations on both sides of the Chattahoochee River is also a priority."

Steuber said his approach to managing garrison issues is built around collaboration.

"My predecessor built a very good team, and my intention is to maintain that team as we prepare for the eventual arrival of the Armor School," he said. "I'm glad to be here. Challenges are what keep us young and keep us engaged. They give us a reason to wake up in the morning. I have no doubt this team will surmount all of them."

Steuber bought a home in Phenix City but he's commuting to Dothan, Ala., on weekends, where he and wife Patricia are trying to sell their old house. The couple has two sons - including a KC-130 pilot in the Marine Corps - and four grandchildren.