News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, April 25, 2013
Fort Gordon's main gate. (May 2, 2011 / WRDW-TV)
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Army is downsizing. About 80,000 active duty soldiers will be cut between now and 2017. People came together on Thursday to make sure the Army knows just how important soldiers are in this military community.
"It's the first bastion for our national security," said Susie Welsh.
Welsh has lived in Augusta for 14 years and spends a lot of time volunteering at Fort Gordon.
"I know the importance of the community when you have a base and you need the support," Welsh said.
Welsh was one of dozens who spoke to a military panel at a Community Listen Session on Thursday.
They feel Fort Gordon should not be targeted by the Army's mandated reductions where 80,000 active duty members will be cut by 2017.
"That is approximately a 14 percent reduction in our active component strength," said U.S. Army Major General LaWarren Patterson.
With the cuts, it renders 4,300 service member jobs here at Fort Gordon gone. That's not including how this would affect the rest of the community.
"We have a lot of employees that their spouses are soldiers here in the area, and so it's an integral part of our company," said Craig Ward, who works in Augusta.
Local business leaders and elected officials also made their case on Fort Gordon's positive impact from education to technological advancement.
And every speaker shared their connection with the post.
"I'm a product of Fort Gordon," said Augusta-Richmond County Commissioner Alvin Mason. "And I'm living proof that Fort Gordon has a positive effect on people's lives."
"It's truly a bond," said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver. "And when I speak about the bond, I think about the soldiers I see each and every day."
The question now is: Exactly what will happen to Fort Gordon?
"We don't know what the final summation is going to be," said Maj. Gen. Patterson. "It could wind up being a zero sum game. It could wind up being positive. It could wind up being a little negative in our numbers. But I think we gave a good showing today and we put up a good argument."