FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 8, 2011) -- The commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker and the post garrison commander met with hundreds of members of the workforce Sept. 1 in the post theater to discuss openly how the Army's plan to reduce its civilian workforce servicewide by more than 8,700 over the next year will affect people locally.

While cuts are necessary at both organizations to meet the Army's demands, cutting vacant positions and attrition will be the keys to avoiding people losing jobs here, according to Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield and Col. James A. Muskopf.

The general explained that while the cuts are Armywide, four commands took the brunt of the responsibility of reducing the workforce: Army Materiel Command, Headquarters Department of the Army, Installation Management Command and Training and Doctrine Command -- with the two latter, of course, being big players on the Fort Rucker scene.

For USAACE, leaders worked long hours trying to come up with a way to make the cuts while minimizing the impact on people and mission alike. The solution, said the general, was cutting "spaces, not faces."

"This was not an option, folks -- we had to do it. We had to figure out how to do this, and how to do this to our Family, how to do this so people aren't hurt, and how to do this and still do the mission we have to do," Crutchfield added.

"Out of the positions I'm talking about, the majority are not filled with people -- no one is in them now," he said. "We're cutting paperwork, but the positions will never get filled now."

The garrison did the same kind of work and identified positions that would need to be cut, but the garrison currently has faces in the spaces, Muskopf said.

While the numbers are higher with the garrison, minimal impact on people is still the goal -- and an achievable one, said the colonel.

"Last year, we had people that retired from civil service, not because of anything going on here, but because it was their time to retire," he said. "If that follows through, I'm more than halfway there to getting down to (the goal)."

He added that in the garrison, there are many employees who are married to students in flight school -- people who knew they would only be employed here for about a year, and who plan to move with their husbands and wives when they go on to their operational assignments.

"I don't know what that number is, but that will get us closer to that goal," Muskopf said, adding that people in affected slots can also retrain or work in other areas vacated by employees who leave or retire to continue to minimize the impact. "There is no choice, we need to do it. I think we can get there, and get there without a lot of pain."

The bottom line is that at Fort Rucker and USAACE, "At this time, we are not considering a reduction in force," Crutchfield said.

The general admitted that this is the beginning of a challenging time for the Army, including Fort Rucker and USAACE.

"The Army is getting smaller, that is a fact," Crutchfield said. "The Army is going from 567,000 active Soldiers to 520,000, and that is happening now -- we're supposed to be at 520,000 by fiscal year 2015. What's decided after that, well, when they tell me, I will tell you."

The general continued by saying people at Fort Rucker and USAACE need to control what they can control to minimize the impact of declining budgets, resources and manpower on people and the mission.

"Look at what's about to happen in our country in terms of ends, ways and means. A lot of you, you've seen this before. I know I have. Since I've been in the Army this has happened three times to me. We can get through it. It won't be easy, and it won't make everyone happy, but we can get through it. When you're having a tough time, think of it this way.

"Ends: When the president comes to the chief of staff of the Army and says I need the Army to go to wherever and do whatever, do you think (the general) is going to go to the president and say, 'Sorry, but we're a little busy, can't do it.'? That isn't going to happen. The ends won't change.

"Means. The means are changing. Resources are going to shrink. We have no control over that. We can manage it, but we don't control it.

"Ways. What is the one thing we can control? The way we do things. It's the way we do things -- it's got to change or we won't make it. One way we can look at how we change things is the Leading Change Team -- be a part of it and help determine how we change the way we do things so we can make it through this challenging time."

Crutchfield added that trust must also play a part in getting through the challenge.

"We can do this. Follow me, trust in me, trust in him (pointing at Muskopf), trust in your leadership here," he said. "We're going to do the right things and we're going to lead us through this. We will get through it."