Despite the Army’s decision last July to convert the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., into an infantry battalion task force, the post’s supporters see plenty of opportunities to attract new units.
Local officials offered their comments following a recent briefing by Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, G-3/5/7, to explain the service’s rationale for eliminating Benning’s armored BCT as part of the Army’s latest restructuring, which will shrink its active-duty end strength from 490,000 to 450,000 by the end of fiscal 2018.
The military value analysis placed Benning in the bottom third of 14 installations evaluated for their ability to accommodate a heavy armored BCT due to four primary deficiencies:
- lack of training maneuver land;
- lack of unrestricted airspace;
- constraints on the use of its impact area for firing high-explosive ordnance, a concern that soon will be alleviated; and
- distance between the 3rd BCT based at Fort Benning and the 3rd Infantry Division at Benning headquartered at Fort Stewart, Ga.
“It is alarming, and that is why we wanted to bring Gen. Anderson down to talk about it,” Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) said in explaining why he invited Anderson to address a group of about 100 local leaders earlier this month. “We wanted to make sure the community understands the situation so that they can make what corrections that need to be made,” Sanford told the Ledger-Enquirer.
Fort Benning scored well on other criteria such as soldier well-being and expansibility, which includes developable area, population, community impact and connectivity.
The post’s assets create an opportunity for it to pick up units that don’t need as much land, said Gary Jones, executive vice president of military affairs for the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
“A Stryker brigade or an infantry brigade requires much less maneuver training area than an armored brigade combat team,” Jones said. “Once the armored combat team issue went away, they are indicating that there is adequate land for them to make sure they train to standard,” he said.
Former Fort Benning commander Scott Miller similarly pointed to the installation’s ability to accommodate new units in the event of a rapid buildup.
“When you look at force structure across the Army, one of the things the chief [of staff] looks at is the ability to expand rapidly, if needed,” Miller, a retired major general, told the paper. “You have infrastructure here. Fort Benning is not in trouble. It remains important to the Army and it remains important to the nation,” he said.