Fort Riley listening session makes case for Big Red One

Congressman Tim Huelskamp speaks during the Fort Riley community listening section in Junction City on Feb. 9 2015. (Chloe Creager | The Collegian)

Junction City’s Convention Center overflowed with citizens filling the 1,200 seats and lining the walls of the meeting room of the Fort Riley community listening session on Monday.

The session was the next phase in line of the Army Force Structure and Stationing Decision process of the military sequestration. The sequestration could reduce the number of U.S. troops by around 125,000, according to numbers stated by Army Brig. Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr. during the session.

The session was held to give Cloutier and other army officials a personal perspective on Fort Riley and its soldiers and residents, as well as to listen to the input of those affected before official decisions are made about military personnel cuts. The official announcements on the amount of people cut are expected to be made in time for fiscal year 2016-17.

“The full trajectory of sequestration … those are big numbers and not something we take lightly,” Cloutier said. “I can tell you no decisions have been made. There are a lot of processes that are ongoing … your voices matter. So, we’re here tonight to listen, to hear your voice and carry that back to the senior leaders of the army.”

Presenters at the session highlighted benefits of the community around Fort Riley, ranging from tangible services to the atmosphere surrounding it. Legislators such as Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, U.S. Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo also voiced their support.

“(Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan) said he was always happy to land in Kansas City,” Roberts said during the session. “Then, he would come to Topeka and the air would get a little cleaner, and he’d get to Manhattan with sort of a purple haze, and then he would get to Junction City, and he said, ‘That’s when I knew I was in real Kansas and I was back in America.'”

The community presentation began with the Kansas National Guard and its benefits, such as its Maneuver and Training Equipment Site at Fort Riley and the Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range at Salina. Gov. Sam Brownback also expressed his vocal support for Kansas’ military.

Pre-college academic achievements were discussed. K-State President Kirk Schulz discussed Fort Riley and K-State’s relationship, including various services K-State offers for military personnel and their family. These include professional development, post-service transition and employment aid.

Representatives from Barton County Community College also spoke of its academic opportunities and support of military schools.

Regional health and behavioral care partnerships were discussed next, followed by benefits of transportation such as having Manhattan Regional Airport nearby for speedy mobilization, as well as employment, housing and recreational opportunities for military members and their families. The listening session concluded with specific members of the public expressing their support for Fort Riley.