Life changes at Fort Benning after Sept. 11 attacks

benw@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 11, 2011 

Ten years after terrorists attacked America with hijacked planes, a former Fort Benning commander said the nation is still at war and life on post will never be the same.

“A lot of people in our country don’t realize we are at war,” said Carmen Cavezza, a retired lieutenant general and former commander at Fort Benning.

Starting with the 9/11 attacks and continuing through the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the post shifted from an open installation to one with 100 percent identification checks for everyone entering one of the largest Army installations in the country.

Checkpoints with Department of Defense officers now dot major entrances on post along Interstate 185, Benning Boulevard, Eisenhower Exchange, Buena Vista Road and all along U.S. 27. Officials closed the Lumpkin Road entrance.

Cavezza said activity has picked up with the training and preparation of all special operation units.

“I would say on Sept. 11, 2001, the post has been at a war footing in terms of training, all the preparation and all the things they do down there,” Cavezza said. “We have seen an increase in the size of the Rangers, special operation forces, more intensity in training.”

In addition to the attacks, the Base Realignment and Closure process, scheduled for completion by Sept. 15, changed the physical structure of the post by moving the U.S. Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to create the Maneuver Center of Excellence.

“All that happened while still dealing with the terrorist situation,” Cavezza said. “Fort Benning has been going 90 miles per hour in a sense.”

The improved security measures have made the post safer after the attacks, said Gary Jones, executive vice president of Economic Development and Military Affairs for the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

“The procedures that they put in place in effect makes it a more safer and secure environment not only for the military on the installation but the people that are not military that are visiting on the installation,” said Jones, who was working on post with a defense contractor on 9/11 and watched the planes hit the towers in New York. “I think security on any post, fort or any base in the United States and overseas was enhanced and increased as a result of that.”

In the fight against terrorism, Jones said, soldiers had to prepare for a combat environment where there is no boundary for the enemy.

“The enemy could be anywhere,” Jones said. “They did a magnificent job in refining the doctrine of the American soldier to go out there and deal in that environment.”

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