By Jim Hinnant, U.S. Army Forces CommandSeptember 25, 2009
FORT McPHERSON, Ga.- To go or not to go' If I pack up my family and go - where should we live' What are the schools like' What services are available in the community'
For more than 600 uniformed service members, Army civilian employees and family members of U.S. Army Forces Command, U.S. Army Reserve Command and the Fort McPherson Garrison, an all-day event here went a long way to ease concerns and answer these questions as the Sept. 15, 2011 closure of the Atlanta home for two of the Army's largest commands inexorably nears.
The Sept. 23 Base Realignment and Closure "Families in Transition Expo '09" brought representatives from North Carolina and Georgia to The Commons Community and Golf Club where they set up display tables loaded with information about the cities and counties surrounding the future home of FORSCOM and USARC at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS
Organized and conducted as a joint effort between FORSCOM, USARC, the Fort McPherson Garrison and the North Carolina-based BRAC Regional Task Force, the Expo was designed to help those undecided about relocating, prepare those who have decided to move with their respective headquarters, ease the transition for those who will leave federal service and provide information to workers seeking other federal employment.
More than 30 educational, medical, civic and governmental agency staffers spent the day interacting with people who, in the coming months, will have to decide whether to relocate to North Carolina, seek federal employment elsewhere, or leave federal service.
According to some of the participating exhibitors, attitudes were markedly different at this event compared to a get-together social held here in the fall of 2008.
"People are serious about the opportunity, have positive attitudes, and are "serious shoppers" who know they will have to make a decision in March," said Tony Chavonne, mayor of Fayetteville, N.C. "This event has been awesome; we want them to know Fayetteville is ready for them."
Some described many attendees at last year's event as "tire-kickers" who were interested but not necessarily in the frame of mind for serious consideration about what (post closure) was then still three years away.
According to Paul Dordal, a retired U.S Air Force brigadier general and executive director of the RTF, A year has made a difference.
"The difference in this one and past events is that people are committed, they know the move will occur and they will have to decide soon," Dordal said. "There is completely different level of energy and interest now."
Attendees raised many questions and concerns, some expected - some not. Mary Sheperd, a logistics management specialist with FORSCOM G4, who has worked at Fort McPherson for 17 years, said she is "leaning that way" when it comes to relocating to Ft. Bragg, but wanted to know about potential facilities for her parents.
"I would have liked to have seen more about resources for those of us who are more mature and likely to have elderly parents," Sheperd said. "As to whether we will move or not - time will tell."
With The Commons buzzing with activity, it was sometimes hard to hold the attention of the educators, medical service providers and community representatives all fielding questions as people snatched up brochures, maps and flyers full of information.
Although the Expo wasn't intended as an employment event for those moving to the Sandhills of North Carolina, there were resource providers available for employees considering staying in the Atlanta region as The Georgia Department of Labor, Ft. McPherson's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, the Atlanta Regional Workforce Board's Skills Shortage Project, and the Army Career and Alumni Program were all on hand to meet with potential job-seekers.
Phyllis Malone, recruitment manager for Fayetteville's Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, said she fielded some questions about employment - but that wasn't her main reason for being at the Expo.
"Folks want to know about our medical facilities, and since most of them aren't TRICARE beneficiaries, they wanted to know if their current insurance was accepted at our hospital," she said. "Since there are so many different plans out there, we recommended they call our business office or talk to their local human resources office."
One of the best outcomes of the Expo may have been the relationships developed, said Dordal, when asked if he thought the event had influenced anyone who hadn't yet decided about relocating.
"It's hard to tell, but we provided a lot of good information, and the right folks were here," he said. "Certainly the individual contacts made today will be fruitful for good follow-up interaction."