Approaching the U.S. Army installation known as Fort Knox, one gets the distinct feeling you’ve been here before.
That’s because the commercial strip outside the northern Kentucky post is dotted with much of what you might find on Victory Drive and other major streets near Fort Benning — fast-food joints, tatoo parlors, finance companies and military supply stores.
Fort Knox is home to the U.S. Treasury’s Bullion Depository, a massive gold vault that is heavily guarded. More importantly for residents in the Columbus and Phenix City area, it’s home to the U.S. Armor School and Center — if only for a few more months.
The armor soldiers and some of the civilian workers are in the process of relocating from Kentucky to Georgia, where they are partnering with the U.S. Army’s Infantry branch to form the Maneuver Center of Excellence. The projected numbers — roughly 28,000 newcomers in the form of soldiers, civilian staffers and their children.
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For both the armor troops and Columbus-area people eager to welcome them, this moment has been a long time coming. Construction of training facilities and a new post headquarters at Fort Benning are the most visible changes and have been in the works for years.
But now, with the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process moving into its final stages and a Sept. 15 deadline fast approaching, the cavalry’s final charge south is imminent.
Today, more than 300 people from the Columbus area — schools, churches, colleges and business people — will be mixing and mingling with the incoming soldiers and family members at Fort Knox, sharing information about their soon-to-be new home.
This is the last of four information fairs held at Fort Knox and will be the final opportunity for local companies and organizations to influence married and single troops alike before they hit the ground this summer in Columbus and at Fort Benning.
The Ledger-Enquirer will be posting reports throughout the day from the Leaders Club at Knox, giving you a feel for the event, how well it is attended, and what those there are thinking and saying.