FORT STEWART, Ga. -The steady hum of the diesel engine of an excavator filled the early morning air as a small group of men gathered to mark this auspicious occasion. It was the culmination of many months of hard work, and all present were glad the day had finally arrived. Marne Terrace, the oldest remaining housing area on Fort Stewart, began its final phase of demolition as the excavator raised its bucket and sent it crashing through the roof of the empty building.

Completed in 1977, Marne Terrace has been home to thousands of Army Families over the years. The demolition of the housing area was part of an 11-year plan to totally renovate housing on post. However, the demolition was moved up when it was discovered the units were deteriorating faster than previously thought.

"This is a step forward for us," said Col. Kevin Milton, garrison commander of Fort Stewart. "We were sinking more money in renovation and keeping them up to date than we would to build new ones."

The process of demolition began several months ago when workers started removing glass, metal and other materials from the homes. The buildings were also inspected for asbestos and other hazardous materials before the buildings could be torn down. In all, 108 homes will be torn down.

Ninety-eight more homes will be built by 2011, on a site adjacent to Marne Terrace. Once those are completed, the Marne Terrace site will have new homes built on it. The new homes are expected to be completed by 2017.

The demolition is expected to take several months as each house is torn down and the debris is sorted and recycled. Approximately 90 percent of the material will be recycled, including all of the metal, wood, and even cement used in the homes.

Additionally, all of the cabinets taken from the homes will be used in the urban training facilities on post to make buildings more realistic. The doors will also be used by Soldiers to practice blowing them in.