President Alisa White and Athletics Director Derek van der Merwe represented APSU’s concerns about the military downsizing at the Fort Campbell listening session on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
The session was held to address questions about downsizing the military personnel at Fort Campbell and to allow citizens from the surrounding areas to speak to Director of Force Management Brig. Gen. Roger Cloutier in support of retaining the Fort Campbell soldiers.
In her speech, White focused on the support APSU has previously given the soldiers at Fort Campbell. She referenced the Fort Campbell campus where APSU offers eight-week courses to support the soldiers’ schedules with 43 full-time personnel.
“The Army is not just welcome here, the Army is embraced,” White said.
White spoke awards APSU has been given, saying APSU’s ROTC is one of the best in the nation. She also referenced the specialized education soldiers can receive, such as a Bachelor’s in criminal justice with a focus in homeland security.
One of the goals of the listening session was for the speakers to show how Fort Campbell is different from the other bases that might suffer from the drawdown.
“The difference here is that Fort Campbell, the surrounding community and APSU are so integrated and interwoven that all would lose, given a drawdown here,” White said. “APSU would not be as strong as it is right now, Clarksville would not be as strong as it is right now, and, frankly, the Army would not be as strong as it is right now if Fort Campbell were to suffer that drawdown.”
Van der Merwe spoke of how the football team auctioned their camouflage football jerseys and donated $8,000 in proceeds to Wounded Warrior Network.
Over 1,500 people attended the listening session, with many overflowing from the Family Resource Center into Cole Park Commons and Wilson Theatre. As of 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 21, there had been over 1,600 viewers on the Cube, which streamed the event online. Hundreds of attendees were reportedly turned away at the gate.
The Department of Defense has already agreed on a reduction from 570,000 soldiers to 490,000.
“Sequestration is the law of the land,” Cloutier said. “We have a mission to get to an Army end-strength of 920,000.”
As for future cuts, Cloutier said definitive numbers would not be available until late spring or early summer.
“No decisions have been made,” Cloutier said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Kentucky Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen were also in attendance, with videos from several dignitaries, such as Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The mayors of Montgomery County, Clarksville and Hopkinsville were among various officials, business owners, veterans and other citizens of the area surrounding Fort Campbell who spoke at the event, which lasted late into the night.