CAMP Atterbury is planning a massive construction project to add living quarters and dining space, projects that are still on track and needed, officials said, despite more than 500 job cuts last year.
The $75 million project to add barracks, a dining hall and new buildings at the railhead at the military post in southern Johnson County will be finished this year after being planned for decades.
About 100,000 troops are expected to train at the facility and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center this year.
Camp Atterbury eliminated about 515 jobs in 2013, but that won’t affect the construction projects or its primary peacetime mission, which is training military and emergency workers.
The military and civilian jobs went away last year because they were related to mobilizing troops to send overseas, which Camp Atterbury began doing about two years after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The role of mobilizing troops ended for the base Sept. 30, after 10 years of preparing more than 200,000 military and civilian workers for duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. Since the U.S. has been withdrawing troops from overseas, the base no longer was needed for the role.
Mobilizing troops, or providing their final medical checkups and making sure they’re battle-ready before deploying, is a mission Camp Atterbury has to be prepared to do whenever ordered, Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck chief operations officer Jack Fowler said.
“We’re trying to continue to do the mission that we’ve had since the mid-’60s,” he said. “Mobilization was something we had trained to be ready for. We’re just returning to a steady state of the way we’ve done business.”
Now, base leaders are focusing on training Army Reserve, other service members and emergency workers such as those from local fire departments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Maj. Lisa Kopczynski said.
“We’ve always known that the military mobilization mission was not a permanent mission,” she said.
A $52 million barracks and dining facility will serve up to 1,100 soldiers at a time who come to Atterbury for training once construction finishes in August, Fowler said. Within the past two years, the post has had more than 5,000 troops stay at one time, but had only about 3,000 barracks beds. Soldiers who couldn’t stay in a building had to sleep in temporary trailer housing, he said.
A barracks has to be replaced about every 50 years, while a trailer has a useful life of about six years. So, building barracks is more cost effective if the base can get the money, he said.
The rail project increases the size of the Camp Atterbury rail yard so a full brigade’s worth of equipment can be loaded and unloaded, which is necessary not only for a brigade’s training but also to deploy the vehicles that would go to war with them, he said. A typical brigade has about 3,600 troops, and they need to be able to load or unload 120 train cars in 72 hours, he said.
Camp Atterbury will not need to add any jobs to staff the new railroad and barracks facilities, Kopczynski said.
About 100,000 troops will come to Camp Atterbury and its Muscatatuck Urban Training Center for training this year. That total is beginning to increase over numbers from the past 10 years because mobilizing troops was a higher priority during those years, and other groups had to be turned away to train elsewhere, Fowler said.