LAWTON, Okla._The Army has been planning to cut tens of thousands of troops for months, and Fort Sill was among those that stood to lose a lot.
The formal announcement came Thursday, but the news was far better than expected. Not only was Fort Sill spared any cuts, they 219 gained troops.
The Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce held a press conference to talk about the Army's decision, and it seemed to be more of a celebration.
The room was filled and there was even a congratulatory phone call from Governor Fallin after the word came out Thursday morning that Fort Sill would be gaining 219 troops. As the word trickled out, the entire community began to buzz.
Local business owners, government officials and many others gathered to celebrate the announcement. Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jacob Brox says he was anxious leading up to the big news.
"We knew something was coming, and they didn't tell us how many or what. So, this 11th hour was really touch and go last night. I was biting my fingernails this morning. Let's just say I jumped up for joy, it was great news. I loved it," said Brox.
Fort Sill is the only post in the army to have triple digit growth, and one of four to have any growth at all. Joe Gallagher, the deputy to commanding general at Fort Sill, says this is the Army's way of helping Fort Sill with its mission.
"The Army thinks that we need those two additional battalions and we need to keep what we have. So, we have a great balance of operational units here that deploy and schoolhouse for the field artillery unit, so we're pretty excited," Gallagher said.
Brox says he is overjoyed for the opportunity, but that it's not over yet.
"All of Lawton Fort Sill will benefit from this. And no, we're going to look toward the future because we still have sequestration to worry about. It's not over yet, this is only a battle, and we want to win the war," said Brox.
Despite the gain for Fort Sill, Senator Jim Inhofe says he is disappointed that the Army isn't making it a priority to avoid any and all reduction in troops. He released a statement today saying,
"I believe we are sacrificing too much capability at a time when we should be maintaining our current structure and capabilities in these uncertain times. We have been wrong in the past when it comes to assumptions regarding the size of our forces and the capabilities required to protect this country. Despite the increased funding in this bill due to OCO, we are on the road to repeat the same mistakes that will take years to fix."
- Fort Benning, Georgia, took the largest hit, losing 3,402 soldiers, or 29 percent of its current personnel.
- Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, will lose 2,631 soldiers, or 59 percent of its personnel.
- Fort Hood, Texas, the Army's largest post, will lose 3,350 soldiers, which is nine percent of its personnel.
- Fort Lewis-McChord, Washington, will lose 1,219 soldiers.
- Fort Bliss, Texas, will be cut by 1,219 troops.
- Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, will lose 1,214.