Fort Benning facing more staff cuts, reduced training

By BEN WRIGHT | Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer | Published: February 15, 2014

Fort Benning faces more staffing cuts with fewer soldiers training at the Maneuver Center of Excellence this fiscal year, an official said.

Compared with last year, training loads at the post have dropped from 84,683 in fiscal year 2013 to 70,857 this fiscal year, a 16 percent reduction. The post hasn’t experienced such a reduction since the pre 9/11 training of 68,635 soldiers in fiscal year 2001.

Gary A. Jones, the director of public affairs, said the projections have been shared with the work force.

“We are expecting to have some personnel cuts but we don’t know exactly what they are yet until we get finalized distributions and allowances,” Jones said this week.

As of last week, Jones said the post hadn’t received any notification on what those personnel numbers will include. The personnel cuts were discussed during a town hall meeting in January.

News of more personnel cuts come after about 4,000 civilian employees were hit with two rounds of furloughs last year. Ozia Scott, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 54 representing about 2,900 workers, said he has no information on the possible cuts. “We will be impacted,” said Scott, who works in security on post after retiring from the Army.

The reduction in training is directed by the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Va. TRADOC oversees the training at 32 Army schools, which include the Armor and Infantry schools at Fort Benning.

Training loads are projected to continue dropping slightly in fiscal year 2015 to 69,277 and 58,380 in fiscal 2016. The Army force is expected to be pared down to 490,000 soldiers by fiscal year 2015.

Jones noted the numbers are just estimates and may change. “Anything after the current year we are in are going to be guesstimates,” he said. The lower training loads are in contrast to activity during the surge in the Afghanistan War, when Fort Benning trained 120,524 soldiers in fiscal year 2010 and 121,263 the following year.

In a review of the training at Fort Benning, TRADOC is no longer counting training for soldiers at the Continental United States Replacement Center in Harmony Church and Reserve component units on post. The CRC, which trains soldiers deploying without a unit in basic combat skills, weapons and threats in the country where they will be deployed, has been moved to Fort Bliss, Texas.

The combined training of the CRC and Reserve units accounted for 9,738 soldiers last year. This fiscal year, the post will train none of those soldiers.

Retired Col. Gary Jones, a former garrison commander at Fort Benning and vice president of Economic Development and Military Affairs at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, said he wasn’t aware of the lower training numbers but realizes the Army is shrinking. “I think everybody knows the training numbers are going to have to go down because the Army is going smaller,” he said.

The Army is still trying to find out what its size is going to be. “I think there is a lot of speculation going on and I think the best thing to do at this point is try to wait and get some definitive guidance on the training load,” the retired colonel said.

Soldiers with the 198th Infantry Brigade train in urban operations at Fort Benning as then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr., above and center, observes, Oct. 20, 2009.


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