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Fort Knox holds listening session; more than 500 attend

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By Judah Taylor, Landmark News Service

 Still reeling from the loss of 3,000 soldiers and Fort Knox’s only combat brigade last year, state and local officials and the community gave their best arguments Jan. 6 against losing 4,100 more.

At the U.S. Army’s community listening session at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School, many lauded benefits Fort Knox offers in training troops. Others touted Hardin County schools’ value to soldiers’ children, and some said Fort Knox already has seen more than enough cuts. But others questioned the Army’s first decision to shrink its forces by shrinking troop numbers in Kentucky.

Radcliff Mayor Mike Weaver directly questioned data the Army compiled and used when deciding how and where to cut troops during the past two years. He said the Army’s estimated cost of $4,357 to station a soldier at Fort Knox — the highest in the nation — was flat-out wrong.

“This comparison of cost just does not make sense,” he said, noting the low cost of living in Kentucky and especially Hardin County. He questioned which factors were taken into account and if environmental restrictions — which he said are nonexistent at Fort Knox — were tacked on to other post’s costs.

Peter Hill, a business owner from Meade County, echoed Weaver’s sentiments after 15 scheduled speakers — mostly elected officials — had their say in front of senior Army officials.

He said using average salaries is not a good way of evaluating data.

 “Check your metric, check your data,” he said.

Community member Andrew Hashset asked the officials to consider, if the data is correct about the high cost of stationing a soldier, it could be because the quality of life provided in Hardin County and at Fort Knox also is high. He asked officials to consider if that is worth it.

The Army plans to take comments from Hardin County and 29 other communities near Army installations into account before deciding what the next round of cuts will look like. The service faces the possibility of reducing its ranks to 420,000 nationwide, 30,000 lower than was said in 2013.

“We ask you to please take another look at the validity of the data,” Weaver said.

Other speakers asked the Army officials, who included John P. McLaurin III, the Army’s director of human resources policy directorate, to consider other data as well.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said two out of three Americans can drive to Fort Knox within one day, and that it is close to the Ohio River, three interstates, and the UPS Worldport, making it a great central location for the deployment and mobilization of troops.

Gov. Steve Beshear said in a recorded video that factors similar to those raised by Fischer were reason enough to locate more Army resources in Kentucky. Beshear said the state, which has invested more than $300 million in local and state money to improve areas near Army instillations, is committed to the military and stands in “sharp contrast to many states” that did not invest so heavily.

Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Rich ardson asked Army officials to consider BRAC Road Shows that Hardin Countians embarked on in 2006 and in 2008 to lure talent to Fort Knox and help the Army, for which the community was named the 2007 Active Base Community of the Year.

 “I know that you’re going to be hearing from other installations,” Richardson said. “You’re going to hear a lot about emotion and about how wonderful everybody is and how friendly we are, but (we) stepped up and did something that was not done by any other community installation in the United States.”

In separate recorded videos, Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell lauded the post’s “tens of thousands” of acres that can be used for training.

The loss of Fort Knox’s 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and the loss of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade combined for a total loss of $444,873,413 in sales volume, $327,522,651 in income, $26,690,000 in state tax revenue and 7,648 jobs last year.