'Save Our Fort' Petition to Head to Washington

Chamber launches campaign to prevent base job cuts


By Monique Williams

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) -- Fliers and petitions are circulating around town as the Columbia Chamber rallies to get 10,000 petition signatures to dissuade federal budget from impacting Fort Jackson.

'Save Our Fort' is the title of an S-O-S call the Columbia Chamber of Commerce is launching on behalf of the nation's largest military training base, Fort Jackson.

"We have 3,000 signatures now." said Susan McPherson with the Chamber. "We will send it to the army, letting them know we love out fort, support our troops, we want to grow the mission, so please don't make any changes to Fort Jackson.

Like many businesses, the United States Army is assessing which bases need to be downsized. Fort Jackson is second on that list, according to officials. Those potential cuts threaten a $2.6 billion hit to the local economy and thousands of jobs lost.

"The immediate impact for the fort is we would lose 3,100 of our 7,000 permanent party military and civilian employees." said McPherson. "If that happens we are not able to train our troops."

"We would lose a lot of business locally and regionally. If the cuts happen, it will be terrible for the community. We would survive, but it would be a struggle," said Stan Wetherell, owner of Sign It Quick.

One of the criteria the army will factor in its final decision is community feedback. The Chamber hopes fliers, word of mouth and petitions will send a clear and present message to Washington. At least one veteran soldier is proud of the community's show of support, regardless of the end result.

"In the 24 years, this is the first installation I've seen where you have this kind of outpouring of support," said Col. Dan Beatty, the fort's chief of staff.

The Chamber hopes to collect the signatures by August 20, prior to the August 25 deadline. In the early part of next year, United States Army officials will visit Columbia for a public meeting to hear directly from residents.

For more information, or to sign the petition, visit columbiachamber.com ot send an email to saveourfort@columbiachamber.com
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