Clarksville Leans On Citizens To Make Case Against Fort Campbell Downsizing

Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Airborne Division, which has been one of the most heavily-deployed units in the last 12 years of war. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Airborne Division, which has been one of the most heavily-deployed units in the last 13 years of war. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

Tuesday night is Clarksville’s chance to make its case for preserving as many jobs as possible at Fort Campbell. Local leaders have been working to recruit an overflow crowd in order to persuade Pentagons officials, going as far as to put up Interstate billboards advertising the so-called “listening session.”

According to Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, Lamar Advertising donated 10 billboards – five in Clarksville and five in Nashville.

“To be honest, I don’t know that a lot of people are educated on the impact Fort Campbell has on the state of Tennessee,” Durrett says.

This listening session is one of 30 planned at installations around the U.S. Defense Department officials held a similar event at nearby Fort Knox earlier this month and will be at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State on Wednesday night. The Department of Defense is finally following through on cuts originally approved in 2011.

The theory within the military is that numbers matter. And the more support a post has, the harder it will be for the Pentagon to follow through on planned cuts.

In the worst case scenario, the number of people employed at Fort Campbell could drop by half. The ripple effect could lead to an estimated 50,000 people moving out of the area.

Besides crushing the real estate market and local economy, a high school and several middle and elementary schools might have to close. Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett says that’s tough to swallow since the school system has been forced to build new schools in recent years to accommodate Fort Campbell’s growth.

“The community has said, ‘hey, you’re bringing the troops here, we’re going to provide a place to educate them.’ Never blinked an eye. But now you’re going to turn around and pull half of them out?”

While the economic case is compelling to residents, elected officials say their formal arguments to the Pentagon will be along the lines of national security, pointing out things like Fort Campbell’s particularly long runway which can handle aircraft of any size.

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