Fort Jackson Soldiers and civilians can issue a measured sigh of relief on hearing the Army’s decision to cut only 180 Soldiers and an as-yet-undetermined number of civilian workers on post.
The force-structure decisions announced at the end of last week call for the reduction of the regular Army from 490,000 to 450,000 Soldiers, as well as a reduction of 17,000 civilian employees by the end of fiscal 2018.
“The impact on the Fort Jackson/Columbia community will be negligible,” post commander Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier said Friday after receiving an official count of the number of cuts at Fort Jackson.
“The Army looked at the critical mission that happens here at Fort Jackson, Cloutier said, and found that it “can’t happen anywhere else.”
Fort Jackson handles more Basic Combat Training Soldiers than any other post — roughly 54 percent of the total trained each year. It employs 3,500 Soldiers and 3,500 civilians.
Though the cuts were small, Cloutier said it was not time to gloat: “The 180 positions represent Soldiers and Families. … There are no winners on this thing.”
Plus, he said, others have been hit harder.
“There are installations and communities around the United States … I would ask that we remember them,” he said. “We’ve got to think about them as we go through his process.”
Columbia businessman Bill Dukes said the news was good but that any rejoicing should be tempered with concern for the Families of the 180 Soldiers who would be cut. Dukes, South Carolina’s civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, also reminded the public that this round of cuts would not be the last.
“The community did come out in strength” to support Fort Jackson during a community listening session last March — a session Cloutier conducted as director of force management, Officer of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7. Then, an audience of 1,500 hundred – including elected officials, business people and educators — stressed the positive impact of the post on the local economy.
Cloutier assured them then that “your voices matter.”
On Friday, after saying with a grin that he had been out of the loop on force-reduction decisions “for the past 45 days,” Cloutier lauded the post’s “incredible partnership with the Midlands” and declared that “the take-away for the folks in the Columbia area (is), your voices were heard.”
Photo credit: Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, post commander, speaks to the members of the media about the Army’s force-reduction announcement Friday. Flanking Cloutier are Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Hain and Bill Dukes, South Carolina’s civilian aide to the secretary of the Army. (U.S. Army photo by Robert Timmons)