By Dewey Terrill
The Executive Director of the Governor’s Military Council, Perry Wiggins, explained to the Junction City Commission this past week that the troop numbers on Fort Riley will temporarily be down to about 3,500 Soldiers in the March time frame. That’s due to current and future deployments.
But about 25,000 reserve component Soldiers and National Guard members will be training at Fort Riley this year. “So we’ve got to figure out how we get them out to the economy, the restaurants and the hotels, and kind of share the wealth and get them off of Fort Riley.”
Due to the timing of the deployments involving 1st Infantry Division troops Wiggins also noted that the children of the military families are in school and families are likely to remain in this area.
On the subject of more troops Wiggins noted that the Army has been trying to grow brigade combat teams, but in 2018 and so far in 2019 there have been retention challenges. “And they undershot their recruitment goal by 10,000 last year and they expect that probably to be somewhat the same this year. So what that does even though we build force structure in the Army we’re not able to fill those slots. We’re not going to get brigades.”
During his report to the City Commission Wiggins noted the Fort Riley region has focused primarily on force structure. But officials are starting to shift the paradigm in Kansas from solely looking at force structure which is still important, and will need everyone’s help to also start looking at defense industry.
Wiggins pointed to the Wichita area where there are only about 5,000 airmen or troops at McConnell Air Force Base . “They’re not driven by the force structure, by the military mission, or what goes on inside that wire because they compensate it by getting defense industry to balance it out outside the wire.” Most of the defense industry in Kansas is in the Wichita area. Elsewhere it has not been a priority. ”