- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) - Army leaders hosted an overflow crowd for a “listening session” at Fort Campbell on Tuesday about force reduction plans that could include deep cuts at the post that is home to the famed 101st Airborne Division.

Under the maximum cuts in Army spending that could be imposed by the end of the decade, Fort Campbell, which straddles the Tennessee-Kentucky line, would lose half of the soldiers and civilians, or about 16,000 people, who in turn have more than 24,000 spouses and children living in the community.

“We’ve got the facts, we’ve got the statistics, we understand what is here at this installation,” said Brig. Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr., who presided over the hearing. “We want to hear Fort Campbell’s story.”

About 23 percent of jobs in neighboring Christian County, Kentucky, and 14 percent of jobs in Montgomery County, Tennessee, are tied to the military installation. According to the Army estimates of the worst case scenario for Fort Campbell: area income would fall by $969 million by 2020, while the housing market and public schools would be heavily affected by the departures.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Kentucky Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen were among the numerous politicians and community leaders who appeared at the event.

Luallen noted that Fort Campbell only last year absorbed the deactivation of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, a 2,400-soldier unit.

“This was a devastating decision, and any consideration of any additional cuts to Fort Campbell would directly contradict the strategy and values of global response,” she said. “Fort Campbell should not be considered for any more cuts, but should be maximized as the premier power projection platform in the Department of Defense.”

Haslam made a pitch similar to the ones he’s made to private businesses investing in the area, including a 1.5 million-square-foot plant being built by South Korean tire-maker Hankook in nearby Clarksville, Tennessee.

“There’s a momentum around here,” Haslam said. “And all that adds up to better opportunities for more members of families that are involved with soldiers here.”

Haslam noted that Fort Campbell’s 11,800-foot runway makes it possible for fully-loaded aircraft to reach almost any point in the world. “That’s a strategic advantage,” he said

Speakers noted the community’s pride in the base and the history of the 101st “Screaming Eagles,” a unit created during World War II by military leaders who wanted a quicker, more aggressive unit that could sneak behind enemy lines in Europe.

Linda Stanfill, who runs a pediatric clinic in Clarksville, was among those attending the event to express concerns about the effect the change would have on small businesses like hers. She says about 90 percent of the children she sees are Fort Campbell dependents.

“It would be a tremendous hit, not only to my business but also other businesses in town,” she said.

The meeting was held at the post’s 600-seat Family Resource Center, and officials set up two satellite locations for people to watch and make public comments, bringing total attendance to more than 1,300.

Cloutier said Army leadership and the Defense Department won’t decide on which cuts will take place until late spring.

“No decisions have been made,” he said.

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