FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- It was a packed house at the 1st Infantry Division’s Headquarters Thursday as Brigadier General Don MacWillie, the assistant division commander for support, addressed local officials and citizens about the future of the Army and Fort Riley.
"We're going back to pre-9/11 promotion rates... The Army is normalizing. We’re not going backwards. We’re just normalizing. It's normal to have normal promotion rates. It's normal to have normal selection rates. It's normal not to have everybody reenlist," MacWillie told the crowd.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 took center stage during the public forum. The Army is drawing down by 80,000 troops and cutting 8 brigade combat teams, two of which will come out of Europe.
Army officials are looking at 21 installations, including Fort Riley, to see where the other six remaining brigades will be inactivated
Community leaders do not want one of those brigades to come from Fort Riley and the big message they wanted to get across to the Army was the massive investment that places like Junction City and Manhattan have made at all levels to support Fort Riley. Millions have been spent on housing, infrastructure, education and healthcare.
"Everything we do economically, the driver is because of Fort Riley and you’ve got to help us. It’s critically important the value we place on Fort Riley we can never forget because Fort Riley was here before Kansas was even a state," said former Manhattan mayor and city commissioner Loren Pepperd.
Officials stressed that losing soldiers would take a big toll on the entire area.
"We’re an area that supports and loves our military and that’s why we do what we do… We think that someplace around 500, 750, 1000 that as a partnership, we could remain strong. Certainly, it has some negative impacts. It will cause us to be stronger together. But we know if we get above those numbers, it starts to be very, very difficult," said John Armbrust, Executive Director with the Governor's Military Council.
"This is a real important economic thing for the state. It’s a beautiful base. It’s a real asset to the state. It’s so much history and being a veteran myself, it’s just something I feel I need to be involved in. I just hope that we can do what’s right for the base and that they get everything they need. I’m here to support them," said Rep. Ray Merrick, Speaker of the House.
Listening in to everything that was said Thursday were Department of the Army staff members, what’s known as the "Big Army." The input from the community listening session will be relayed back to the Secretary of the Army & Chief of Staff to help them make final decisions
During his visit to Fort Riley in February of 2012, General Raymond Odierno, the 38th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, alluded to the fact that Fort Riley was positioned well in certain areas as Army leaders continue to conduct their analysis.
"In some way, every installation will probably be affected by this cut of 80,000 but I would follow that up by saying that you can see the investment we have made at Fort Riley. Fort Riley is considered one of our enduring installations It’s one of our installations where we feel that we have an incredible capacity to train, a large capacity to take care of our soldiers and that will certainly be a large consideration as we go through this process. This is a place obviously that will continue to have a large contingency of army forces for a very long time to come," Gen. Odierno said.