Archive for Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Leavenworth possible relocation site

November 5, 2008

A study is under way to determine the feasibility of relocating the Army’s Sergeants Major Academy — along with its fulltime staff of 280 people and an annual rotation of 650 to 700 noncommissioned officers — from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Fort Leavenworth.

Stephan Nolan, a spokesman for Fort Leavenworth, said the idea for the move was proposed by Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, and was in the “very preliminary” stages.

“This is a predecisional study, a feasibility study, to bring the Sergeants Major Academy to Fort Leavenworth,” Nolan said.

The Sergeants Major Academy draws the Army’s top noncommissioned officers — master sergeants, first sergeants and sergeants major — and instructs them in areas of leadership, resource management, training management and military operations. In addition to a nine-month annual course, the academy also conducts hundreds of shorter courses every year.

Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm to the Army, began conducting the feasibility study in September, Nolan said. Fort Leavenworth officials expect the study to be completed in February 2009.

Consultants will analyze whether there would be room for the academy at Fort Leavenworth, including its impact on housing and existing schools at the fort. It also will look at the benefits to the Army of moving the academy to Fort Leavenworth.

A major factor will be whether the Army’s leadership education would be improved in a way that helps soldiers deal with the evolving threats confronting the nation.

The Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth is known as the “intellectual center of the Army” with its Command and General Staff College already training 1,200 majors annually to be the next generation of leaders in the Army. The study will look at whether bringing the Army’s senior noncommissioned officers to Fort Leavenworth for training could provide enhanced team-building opportunities for the Army.

Nolan emphasized any talk of moving the Sergeants Major Academy to Fort Leavenworth was preliminary, and no actual relocation would be anticipated for at least five years.

Before any of that can take place, the study must be completed. Then, Fort Leavenworth officials will dissect the information and decide whether to seek support for the idea with Army leaders.

There also is a political component to any possible move. Relocation, Nolan said, would involve construction of a new school on par with the newly opened Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth. The building housing the center cost $115 million with an additional $34 million in informational technology. Appropriations of that sort would require congressional approval.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, represents the district that includes Fort Bliss. When news of the relocation study became known there, Reyes told the El Paso Times, “I continue my strong support of the Army’s Sergeants Major Academy and believe that Fort Bliss remains the best location for the academy. This isn’t the first time this has come up, and now, as then, we believe there’s no justification for this to take place.”

Tim Holverson, executive vice president of the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce, said relocating the academy to Fort Leavenworth would be a boon to the area economy on several fronts, including the civilian jobs that would be created on post and the impact it would have on housing for the families the academy would draw to the area.

The biggest benefit, Halverson said, was less tangible.

“It just would raise the profile of our entire community — Leavenworth, Lansing and Fort Leavenworth. … It would be a real feather in our cap,” Holverson said.

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