Fort Benning is moving ahead with environmental and real estate studies on areas near the installation to determine exactly which land might best meet future training needs, but landowners haven’t been contacted and no decisions are made on any potential purchases, post leaders said.
Under the Training Land Expansion Program, about 223,000 acres to the south, southeast and west are being analyzed for possible use. It encompasses parts of Russell County in Alabama and Stewart, Webster and Marion counties in Georgia.
“The important thing to remember is this is only a study,” said Col. Thomas Macdonald, the garrison commander. “There is no approval to purchase anything.”
The vast majority of areas identified for the study are large chunks of timberland, the same type of terrain Soldiers primarily use now in training, he said. At this point, however, the Army hasn’t reached out to any landowners regarding acquisition.
“Until both studies have been completed, no land will be identified for possible purchase,” the colonel said.
Macdonald said Fort Benning initiated the studies based on specific criteria: The land had to meet training requirements and environmental standards, be adjoined or close to current post boundaries and contain large land holdings with low-population density.
The Army needs additional land to provide its operational and deployable units with the capability to conduct realistic maneuver training exercises through the battalion level as they train for deployments abroad, he said. The needed tracts must accommodate the simultaneous training of two heavy battalions.
Even if ultimately approved by the Army, any land deal will be limited to 82,800 acres, Macdonald said. Both studies should be wrapped up by next October, and purchasing steps could begin by the fall of 2011.