FORT SILL, Okla._Big changes are coming for soldiers on Fort Sill, and it affects where they'll be allowed to live.
Hundreds of soldiers going through the field artillery's Basic Officer Leadership Course will no longer be able to live off post during their training, starting January 4, 2016. The leadership course has been shortened from 20 weeks to 18 weeks, and according to military regulations, the officers must live in on-post lodging for any training that lasts less than 20 weeks.
Fort Sill officials say more than 600 officers in the leadership course have stayed in Lawton hotels, or apartments, over the past year. And a Lawton Board of Realtors member says this change could leave a lot of apartments empty in the coming months.
"Well, our whole market in Lawton revolves around Fort Sill. So, as soldiers come in and leave, that's how our housing market goes," Barry Ezerski, Board of Realtors members, said.
Ezerski says as more soldiers are required to stay in on-post lodging while they take their 18-week course, the more apartments sit empty. However, Fort Sill officials say they do not expect to see a sudden move of soldiers from apartments to living on post, and the change will happen throughout the first couple months of the year.
They also say if there is no on-post lodging available to them at the time, then the soldiers will be allowed to stay in Lawton hotels or apartments.
Field artillery commandant Brigadier General William Turner says this military regulation is for saving housing for soldiers staying long-term, and also to be more cost-effective.
"It's a shorter period and, for us to be here as a permanent changing station under those conditions, you know to use permanent housing here, it becomes a bit of an issue then and it keeps that housing going to soldiers who are being assigned here in permanent changing status," Brig. Gen. Turner said.
He says the change in length is not to keep the soldiers on post, but it's aiming to make the course more efficient and to streamline course requirements.
Ezerski says he does not think this change will be a problem in the long term because Fort Sill is gaining two more battalions next year.
"So, the impact of those other people coming in will help offset the losses due to the transfer of folks through these schools," Ezerski said.
Fort Sill officials say they do not know what effect the two additional battalions will have.