Shovels planted firmly in the ground unearthed the historic beginning of Fort Lee’s future Monday at the groundbreaking ceremony on Sergeant Seay Field.
While planning and coordination efforts have been continuous since the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decisions were made, the ceremony officially marked the first physical evidence that the process is in effect. In less than two years time, another audience will gather at the same site for the grand opening of the Sustainment Center of Excellence Headquarters.
Maj. Gen. Mitchell H. Stevenson, Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general, thanked everyone who contributed to make this possible, calling it the fulfillment of a dream shared by every Fort Lee commander since the creation of CASCOM.
“This is a result of combined and coordinated efforts of members of Team Lee, our communities and strong leadership from our local and federal elected officials,” said Stevenson. “This powerful teamwork proved that Fort Lee was the best place to locate the SCoE.”
The development of the SCoE essentially co-locates logistics training – quartermaster, transportation and ordnance – for the U.S. Armed Forces under one joint combat service support training center, said Stevenson.
“We must train as we will fight,” said Stevenson. “We must accomplish the mission together – one team, one fight. The SCoE will train logisticians from each of the services to operate as part of that joint team to strive amidst complexity and uncertainty, and provide unwavering sustainment to the combatant commander. To put it another way, the SCoE will enable us to become the force this nation will need to safeguard its peace and freedom.”
Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Virginia’s 4th District, said there are many reasons the people attending the ceremony are personally connected with Fort Lee, but said that every American should love the installation because it “truly is the logistics capital of the world.”
“And as they say oftentimes, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’ of where it’s going to be,” said Forbes. “We’re just excited for that, that you will be the logisticians running the greatest military the world has ever known.”
On the economic impact of Fort Lee, Forbes said that in 2006, the post paid $527 million in installation employee wages, and induced another $251 in wages to workers not directly employed to the installation.
About $212 million in operating expenses, such as construction and utilities, generated $53 million in state and local taxes.
A study by the Virginia Employment Commission indicates that BRAC actions on post will generate at least $1.2 billion dollars in total output each year through 2013. State and local taxes paid will amount to $580 million in a seven-year period.
“We knew then and we know now that Fort Lee is a good neighbor, good for the economy and good for the nation,” said Forbes. “Through a variety of cooperative agreements, Fort Lee touches the community on national, state and local levels.”
As impressive as the number-crunching amounts to for both Fort Lee and the state, Forbes said that the upcoming Fourth of July holiday reminds him that numbers aren’t everything.
“Freedom isn’t free,” said Forbes. “As we do this groundbreaking, it’s more than numbers and more than the economy. This is what will help keep America free for our children and our grandchildren.”