FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Dec. 8, 2006) - With the 2010 census quickly approaching, preparations are being made and the residents of Fort Bragg and its surrounding areas are about to get involved.

The U.S. Census Bureau is conducting a rehearsal operation in the Fort Bragg area which will not only offer many local residents temporary employment, but also a chance to be part of the federal government's largest peacetime operation.

"Before we take the census in 2010 we conduct two dress rehearsals, which are full fledged census activities in the United States," said Wayne Hatcher, U. S. Census Bureau regional director. The second rehearsal will take place in northern California's Joaquin County.

The Cumberland County area, which includes Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, was selected as a rehearsal site, in part, due its high military population.

To start this spring, the rehearsal will establish a working system that will be used to conduct the nationwide operation in 2010.

"To conduct the census activities, we need to hire a staff in 2007 to conduct field activities and in 2008, as well. In 2010 we'll open about 450 offices throughout the country. This dress rehearsal is helping us determine all of our procedures and training that we will use in 2010," Hatcher said.

Among the procedures to be rehearsed is the new use of handheld computers that surveyors will use to collect data from residents who don't return census forms, making the census a quicker and more cost effective operation, according to Megan C. Kindelan, a Census Bureau public affairs specialist.

Local residents will have more than one way to participate with the rehearsal census. Not only will filling out the census information be critical to the success of the overall mission, the Census Bureau will also hire hundreds of residents for part-time work during the operation.

"In January 2007, we'll be opening a census office on Ramsey Street in Fayetteville. For the census jobs, we're looking for staff who can work for five to 10 weeks in spring 2007, and there's really no background or experience needed," said Hatcher.

"We found that these jobs are great for people who maybe just need extra money, people who already have employment, loans or for students or retirees because they offer competitive rates, flexible hours and experience," Kindelan said.

Local residents will also be supporting their community by participating in the census rehearsal, and with the introduction of a new survey, the community will benefit more often.

"The census is now a very simple operation for all Americans. We now have something called the American Community Survey where we conduct an ongoing monthly survey that gathers all the details of the socio-economic information that we use to conduct only once every 10 years, but now we conduct this survey monthly and release the data annually," Hatcher said.

Aside from statistics gathered by the census, the results are also used to allocate state and federal funding given to local communities.

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(Spc. Jerome Bishop writes for the Fort Bragg Paraglide.)