By Mike Strasser, Fort Lee Public Affairs OfficeDecember 20, 2007
FORT LEE, Va. -- Secretary of the Army Peter Geren received a glimpse into Fort Lee's future during his first visit to the installation Dec. 14. The tour took him to some of the construction resulting from the Base Realignment and Closure process, a topic that would bring area civic leaders, Army commandants and garrison leadership together for a summit that afternoon.
But first, it was the present which served as the focus of discussion during a town hall meeting. More than 130 Soldiers, Department of Defense Civilians and Family members filled Larkin Conference Center to talk candidly with the Secretary of the Army on a variety of topics to include quality of life, health care, pay and benefits.
Geren said it is important that the Army continues to show Soldier and Family support in light of the sacrifices they've made since the beginning of operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
"The key to the future of this Army is to make sure that the support to Families is as effective in meeting their needs in the same way as in supporting our Soldiers," said Geren.
At the town hall, Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Virginia's Fourth Congressional District, also answered questions from the audience. As ranking member on the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Forbes said that he deals on a daily basis with the issues raised like Army funding and advancement of military technology. He spoke frankly about congressional debates on national defense and trying to provide not only what the military needs today, but also projecting decades out.
"I was extremely proud of the Fort Lee we visited today, and I was proud to showcase for the Secretary of the Army what we truly believe to be the best Army post in the United States," said Forbes. "I am confident that the Secretary knows what a dedicated leadership team the post has who truly cares about the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families, on and off post."
Forbes spoke with Geren at the luncheon preceding the BRAC Summit, which included briefings from the three Corps branches that will be transformed by the realignment - Brig. Gen. Jesse R. Cross, Quartermaster Center and School commanding general; Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead, Ordnance Center and School commanding general; and Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, Transportation Center and School commanding general.
Introducing the Secretary of the Army was Maj. Gen. Mitchell H. Stevenson, Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general.
"Secretary Geren is a steadfast patriot who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the office of the Department of the Army," said Stevenson. "He has an unmatched care for Soldiers, their Families, and the sacrifices they make everyday. He spoke about during his confirmation hearing. Having heard him speak several times since then, I can say ... having been in the Army all my life, I've never seen that kind of sincere care for Soldiers and Families as I've seen in our current secretary."
While the transformation to Fort Lee will continue over the next several years, Geren said the mission of caring for Soldiers and Families remains constant. With the Fort Lee community recently signing the official Army Family Covenant, Geren said it is also the support of local partnerships and community leaders outside the gates who have and will contribute to the success of the post.
"This is a very dynamic period in the life of Fort Lee, and I want to thank all of you for helping to make this transformation possible," said Geren. "There's no way that any military installation can succeed without neighbors such as you helping your neighbors on the installation."
(Mike Strasser is a staff writer with the Fort Lee Traveller)