Fort Benning landed more than 500 new jobs Thursday as the U.S. Army created a new unit and assigned it to the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
The Security Force Assistance Brigade will be established at Fort Benning by October. The announcement comes a week after the Army announced a new school, the Military Adviser Training Academy, would be placed at Fort Benning. That will create between 80 and 100 new jobs, bringing a net gain of nearly 600 jobs before the end of the year.
The decision to place the school and security force at Fort Benning means the post will become the Army’s headquarter element for the Security Force Assistance mission to “train, advise, and assist” with the security forces of partner nation militaries.
“We are pleased and encouraged by the Army announcement to base the Security Force Assistance Brigade and the Military Adviser Training Academy here at Fort Benning,” Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said in a news release. “This demonstrates the important role Fort Benning has in training the force and shows confidence in the tremendous support Columbus, Phenix City, and the surrounding communities provide our soldiers, civilians, and family members.”
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The announcement was welcome news from Washington to Columbus as local political and business leaders hailed the economic development victory for the Chattahoochee Valley region.
“Fort Benning continues to be the premier training installation for the United States Army,” Sen. David Perdue, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a news release. “... This, along with the news last week about the Security Force Assistance Proponency and Military Adviser Training Academy, better positions Fort Benning to play a major role in our Army's growth. This decision by the Army is certainly reflective of the hard work of the Chattahoochee Valley community who make Fort Benning an incredibly competitive and capable base.”
Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said that the decision was the result of a team effort on the local and national level.
“Our Chamber Military Affairs Team, with a host of public/private volunteers, work together with Local, Regional, State and Georgia’s National Leadership in Washington to support the commanding general and his readiness priorities,” Anderson said. “... This SFAB has 529 officers and non-commissioned officers assigned, of which the bulk will dwell in our community and region. When you bundle this with last week’s Military Adviser Training Academy announcement of 85 personnel, this region is preparing to accept 614 new members into our city and region.”
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson called it “great news” for the community.
“Fort Benning is indeed interwoven into our very fabric and is our economic and community partner that impacts us all with some $4.75 billion annually with over 38,000 civilian and military personnel calling Columbus and the region home,” she said in a prepared statement.
Gary Jones, the chamber’s executive vice president, government and military affairs, said greater growth opportunities might await Fort Benning.
“Fort Benning has clearly demonstrated its potential for mission growth and the community has demonstrated its ability to handle mission growth,” Jones said. “From my perspective, the Army is about to enter a growth period and Fort Benning through the commanding general and his readiness priorities is prepared to accommodate that mission growth.”
Last fall, Wesley addressed a chamber group and pointed to what the post was doing to be ready for such moves.
Though Fort Benning lost the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division in 2015 and 2016 in the Army’s downsizing, Wesley encouraged the community to be prepared for a possible buildup of force.
A decision on where the new brigade and school will be placed has not been made, said a spokesman for the post Public Affairs Office. Kelly Hill, the former home of the 3rd Infantry Division is a possibility.
When the 3rd Brigade departed, Army officials made a decision to mothball Kelly Hill at a cost of $3.8 million and $300,000 annual upkeep.
It has been a strong week of job growth for Columbus. On Tuesday, aerospace company Pratt & Whitney plans to invest $386 million into its Columbus plant on Macon Road, pledging to create more than 500 jobs over five years.
The announcement was made in Atlanta by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and will add to the roughly 1,200 employees already at the Columbus complex, which has expanded several times since coming to the city in 1984. The new jobs will be in the areas of administrative, supervisory, technical support, production and maintenance.
“We have added 1,100 new jobs in just 10 days,” Tomlinson said. “In years past, especially during the recession, that was all of the new jobs we would get in the entire year.”