Take a look around Fort Benning and you’ll see sprouting from almost every grassy range, dusty hill and wooded lot tangible evidence of an installation in flux.
For the most part, Harmony Church has been ground zero for much of the transformation that has taken place on post in preparation for the merging of the Infantry and Armor centers into what the Army is calling the Maneuver Center of Excellence. There, construction continues on the facilities the post will need to house the new Armor School and Center. In addition, roads are being widened and access control points are being altered, all in an effort to make sure the thousands of soldiers and civilian employees who relocate from Fort Knox as part of the Department of the Defence’s Base Realignment and Closure initiative feel at home on Fort Benning.
“Harmony Church will become the Fort Knox of the South,” said Col. Charles Durr, chief of staff for the MCOE at Fort Benning, during Tuesday’s BRAC Community Update at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.
Those who’d gathered for Durr’s speech learned that on Oct. 1 Fort Benning officially became the Maneuver Center of Excellence. They also learned that on that date post commander Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter was designated the first commanding general of the center. Durr called the designation the “first milestone” in this approximately four-year effort to combine the Armor and Infantry centers.
Precisely how many soldiers and civilians will move to the area because of the BRAC initiative is yet to be seen. But it’s going to be in the tens of thousands, according to Benning officials. Durr said Tuesday the community should see the first large formations of Armor soldiers and their families come to the area next summer.
Nine families from the Fort Knox area have already relocated to the Chattahoochee Valley to fill the first positions created to staff the Maneuver Center’s Directorate of Training Sustainment. Joe and Tina Massouda are two people who have already moved to the area.
Making a transition
The Massoudas came to Columbus on Aug. 9. The couple has since bought a house in the area and Tina Massouda has secured a job working as a nurse at Doctors Hospital.
Joe Massouda was the logistics officer for the Armor School at Fort Knox. He said he’ll continue to do that job on Fort Benning.
“My responsibility is to coordinate all those things that support and supply maintenance and transportation functions for training,” Joe Massouda said.
Tina Massouda said the transition for her family has so far been easy, thanks to a welcoming community and bustling. “We were looking to live in a friendlier environment,” she said, “and I think we’ve got it. It’s very lovely.”
What BRAC will bring
BRAC will generate about 10,000 jobs on post and 5,000 off post, according to estimates from officials on and off post. Joe Massouda said in the coming weeks he will be putting together an approximately 34-person team, drawing upon a pool of local and national applicants, to help him organize a large maintenance, supply and transportation function that will combine the training equipment from both the Infantry and Armor centers and consolidate those fleets under a single organization.
The public is invited to attend all BRAC update meetings to learn more about where the community stands in the process of completing BRAC projects, awarding contracts and filling positions.