Fighting to save Fort Jackson

COLUMBIA (WACH) - Midlands business and community leaders packing a panel discussion Thursday about the future of Fort Jackson.

Around 3,100 employees, both soldiers and civilians, could lose their jobs if major federal budget cuts hit the nation's largest training base.

"The 3,100 is just an assessment. It does not mean that is a decision that is, or pending to be, made or anything like that. So it's nothing more than an assessment. We might not lose any. We might lose the entire amount, or we might actually gain positions." says Colonel Daniel Beatty, the Chief of Staff at Fort Jackson.

If the worst case scenario plays out, 2,400 of the 3,100 jobs would be military positions.

Colonel Beatty says a loss like that would be devastating, and would drastically alter the training capability Fort Jackson is known for.

"That would essentially mean all basic combat training would probably go away. It would obviously have a major impact. At least 88% of the training that we do on Fort Jackson would likely be taken away at that point." says Beatty.

Not only would Fort Jackson feel the blow, but the city of Columbia could be sent reeling as well.

More than 250,000 people come to the area every year for things like graduation ceremonies at Fort Jackson.

Cutbacks would mean a loss in business at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, restaurants, and hotels.

"We may not get a huge amount of military business at the Marriott, but all of the hotels in the northeast part of town do. If they don't have the military, the troops, there and the personnel to support the base on the northeast side of town, those hotels are going to need to come to Main Street to find business." says Joel Darr, the general manager of the downtown Columbia Marriott.

That kind of competition would eventually drive up prices, and people may look for cheaper alternatives outside Columbia.

"Columbia is obviously reinforcing that they are the most military friendly community in the nation and again, we absolutely believe that Columbia is a true partner in everything that we do at Fort Jackson." states Beatty.

A partner that is providing support as the Fort navigates an unknown future.

The Army is slated to get written feedback from the community on this issue by August 25th.

In January, they will come to Columbia and hold a public session for the Army to hear the community's take on the possible reductions.