Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Hard Knox Life

Fort Knox barely escaped the full wrath of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), but the post and region still took a hard hit. It was home to the US Army Armor Center and School for over 70 years until it was relocated to Georgia in 2005. Nearly 10,000 soldiers and their families moved away, leaving the surrounding communities and state officials with a sense of impending economic doom. This was Fort Knox’s most substantial transformation since World War II. Many feared that the post could shut down completely, but it was just the beginning of a long, turbulent decade.

To alleviate some of the damage this did, the one-star Army Reserve Aviation Command reactivated in Fort Knox in 2007, the two-star 84th Training Command was relocated there in 2009, and the two-star US Army Human Resources Command in 2010. However, the post’s situation worsened in 2011 when Basic Combat Training operations shut down and the US Army Accessions Command officially discontinued, removing nearly 1,000 soldiers and civilian personnel. Then, in 2013, Fort Knox’s combat force was almost eliminated after it lost more than 10,000 soldiers with the relocation of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. After a decade of changes turned surrounding communities into ghost towns and left the local economy in shambles, Fort Knox became an unrecognizable shell of what it once.

Fort Knox’s luck picked up a bit when it gained its third two-star command with the relocation of US Army Cadet Command in 2014 and the 1st Army Division East in 2015, along with nearly 1,000 personnel. Sadly, the post also lost the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command in 2015, but this was the last time Fort Knox took a hit. The Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs and Knox Regional Development Alliance, with support from Kentucky congressmen, began persistently advocating for Fort Knox and Kentucky’s capabilities and potential in 2015.

KCMA and KRDA stressed the damage that had been done from the decade of BRAC changes to give legislators and Pentagon officials a feeling of guilt, but it was the facts, numbers, and projections that set things in motion. While pushing the "Fort Kentucky" initiative, they sold Fort Knox on its unique capabilities, including having no environmental encroachment impact on training, net-zero utilities, a central location, world-class training facilities, and first-rate logistical infrastructure.

Success came after only two years of badgering Capitol Hill and the Pentagon with proposals, testimonies, and numbers to back up their claims. Thanks to these organizations and individuals, Fort Knox gained roughly 10,000 personnel in 2017 with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. Then, in 2020, it was announced that Fort Knox was chosen as the home of the Army’s fourth headquarters, Fifth Corps (Victory/“V” Corps) -- the state’s first three-star command. This will bring about 800 personnel to Fort Knox and expand the post’s daily impact to the international level with close NATO and EUROCOM partnerships.

Between gaining an Army HQ in 2020 and becoming the first energy independent military installation in 2019, Fort Knox is proving to be one of the Department of Defense’s most valuable assets.

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