Friday, September 16, 2011

16 SEP 11: Mission Accomplished

A little construction is still underway. But as of Thursday, six years of hope and hype officially are over. Base realignment has ended. Fort Benning is a busier place. And Muscogee County schools will have to look beyond Kentucky for help in improving test scores.

Thursday was the federal deadline for concluding BRAC, or "base realignment and construction." While some U.S. military installations were downsized or closed, Fort Benning gained the U.S. Armor School from Fort Knox, Kentucky. But Columbus city officials still may be disappointed - because they expected a lot more gold to be moved from Fort Knox with it.

Commanding General Robert Brown told a news conference BRAC brought about 2,200 new soldiers to the Columbus area. He claimed that's in line with what was predicted when the shift to Fort Benning was announced in 2005 -- but my records show 4,000 soldiers were expected then [25 Aug 05]. Perhaps Brown used the news conference to practice his propaganda techniques.

Gen. Robert Brown said the move of the U.S. Armor School to Fort Benning is better for soldiers, because training is easier when military units are together. Now I'm even more impressed at how WLTZ has its news anchors in Iowa, while its reporters are in Columbus.

The Commanding General noted some members of the U.S. Armor School never had seen a tank, before they were moved from Fort Knox to Fort Benning. Hopefully they sent thank-you letters to Chick-Fil-A on Wynnton Road for holding its "touch a tank" day several weeks ago.

Fort Benning commanders added not all the BRAC construction is finished. The Armor School has to share a firing range with the Maneuver School of Excellence for the time being. So why is this a bad thing? Can't the two groups of soldiers fire mortar rounds back and forth at each other, like they're playing catch?

(WLTZ indicated the Armor School soon will have its own firing range, at the Good Hope training area. And imagine the parties soldiers can have when they put on capes at Good Hope.)

It's tempting to add up winners and losers from the six years of BRAC work. One big winner clearly is the Fort Mitchell area of Russell County, which has seen a boom in new development. I won't be surprised if a movement develops to incorporate that area as a city - only to have Robert Schweiger arrive from Hurtsboro to warn intensely against it.

Generally speaking (pun), another group of winners may be average Columbus drivers. Base realignment was one selling point for the "streets and safety" sales tax, and a lot of money has been spent in recent years on road improvements. If the asphalt would stick a little better, we might not need that transportation sales tax for bridges on Buena Vista Road.

One big loser from BRAC may be Muscogee County schools. Officials expected a virtual flood of new students from Fort Knox. Instead, there appears to be enough to justify the purchase of one new school bus.

Commanding General Robert Brown said Thursday it's better for Muscogee County schools to prepare for big numbers and get little, than not to prepare at all. Brown isn't likely to have a post-military career in financial planning with that sort of talk....

Fort Benning will celebrate the end of the six-year base realignment process next week with an event called "BRAC to the Future." Then it will be on to the matter of expanding the installation to more counties - which could inspire another slogan: "BRAC to political football."

Before we march into the sunset for today, let's check other Thursday topics:

+ Several church associations held a prayer vigil at the Government Center in behalf of public safety and against violence. This shows how Columbus has changed in recent years - because I can remember when some pastors demanded Sheriff Ralph Johnson go to their churches, and leave all his official documents in the lobby.

+ Troup County law officers pulled another car out of West Point Lake. That makes three cars found in the lake this summer - and if the count reaches ten, Gil's Auto Sales will have enough to open a new location there.

+ AT&T showed off a new cell phone tower at Shirley Winston Park. This one is different, because the metal pole is disguised to look like a pine tree. Apparently the Columbus area doesn't care about red cockaded woodpeckers anymore....

(Maybe there's a lesson here for both sides in the Veterans Parkway "Streetscape" dispute. Make billboards that can be embedded inside trees - and when tires roll over a certain spot, the trees can light up with ads for local restaurants.)

+ The U.S. Postal Service announced it's studying the possible consolidation of Columbus mail processing in Montgomery. This news was confusing, because I thought mail processing was moved to Macon last year [14 Jan 10]. But perhaps a shift to Montgomery will allow you to drop off letters one hour later every day.

+ Auburn University officials assured football fans Spirit the "war eagle" will be all right, after flying into a press box windowpane last weekend. I'm not sure why people were so concerned about this bird. Hockey players collide with glass night after night from October to April.

+ Spencer spanked Terrell County 20-14 in high school football. Both teams are nicknamed the Green Waves - but no one dared wave stacks of dollar bills toward players on either team.

+ Instant Message to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor: To answer the question you raised Thursday - I used to be OK. But then I moved from Oklahoma to metro Atlanta.

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