By David Agan, Fort Rucker Public AffairsOctober 20, 2011
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (October 20, 2011) -- After calling Fort Bragg, N.C., home since 1953, the 7th Special Forces Group has a new address at Eglin AFB.
A member of the Florida Senate, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force senior leadership, local community leaders, and members of the public attended a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house for the Army 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin AFB, Fla., Friday.
The event was also attended by representatives from Fort Rucker, including Col. James A. Muskopf, garrison commander, and Justin Mitchell, deputy garrison commander, and the 98th Army Band Brass Quintet provided music during the national honors.
According to Col. Frederick Swope, deputy director, Atlantic Region of Installation Management Command, it's Fort Rucker's responsibility to ensure the Soldiers of the 7th and their Families are taken care of just like they would be on any Army base.
"Seventh Special Forces is a major command, so even though it's located on an Air Force base, the Army has a responsibility to make sure our Soldiers are being taken care of and are provided the same level of service that all the other Army agencies are," said Swope.
"Although [Eglin] is not a joint base, the Air Force is the lead. It is our responsibility to provide the services that the Air Force and other sister services don't provide; the services that are specifically related to the Army," said Swope.
The ceremony began with an aerial demonstration of High Altitude Low Opening parachute tactics by the Black Daggers, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command parachute team.
After opening remarks by guest speaker Sen. Don Gaetz, Florida Senate, the crowd of nearly 1,000 was addressed by Col. Antonio M. Fletcher, commander, 7th Special Forces Group, who expressed his eagerness to begin the next chapter of the 7th's proud history at Eglin.
"We are overjoyed to be in the Emerald Coast and live as your neighbors," said Fletcher. "For 50-plus years we called Fort Bragg home, and the bonds of our personal friendships and the connections throughout the countless Carolina communities ran extremely deep. In retrospect, six years ago when Congress mandated our move to Eglin, it was received with a bit of angst and nervous anxiety.
"Your smiling faces, unconditional community support, the Emerald Coast weather, world class facilities and unprecedented training opportunities quickly erased those fears," said Fletcher. "This unparalleled blend provides this exceptional unit with a unique opportunity to focus on what matters most: training for our soldiers and caring for their families. We look forward to writing the next chapter in the 7th Group's proud legacy with the Emerald Coast neighbors."
In September 2005, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended to President George W. Bush that the 7th Special Forces Group be relocated from Fort Bragg to Eglin, in order to provide the opportunity to train jointly alongside the Air Force Special Operations Command.
Construction for the new compound began in March of 2009. Within two years, what was previously a wooded area frequented by local hunters had been transformed into a 350-acre, $255 million cantonment site with over 40 facilities, officials said at the ceremony. Roughly 150 Soldiers per week have moved during this past summer, with the last Families arriving in September.
Upon the ceremony's conclusion, guests were invited to tour the 7th's new facilities and view an array of static displays, including the Ground Mobility Vehicle, the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle, and the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Shadow.
Plans call for the 7th Special Forces Group to grow by additional six buildings and 150 acres over the next year, officials said.