By Charles E. Gorton
This week's visit by the National Commission on the Future of the Army presents an opportunity for community leaders to highlight Kentucky's well-known patriotism and support its soldiers.
As commissioners visit our largest installations, Fort Knox and Fort Campbell, they will meet with both active and reserve component soldiers.
I have great confidence that the commissioners tasked with providing recommendations for the future force mix will see the value of our citizen-soldiers.
More than 4,000 Army Reserve soldiers call Kentucky home, working in the private sector daily and providing those civilian skills to the Army, as well. The Army Reserve provides quick access to trained and ready forces, with critical capabilities found nowhere else in the Army or the Joint Force.
Efficient and cost effective, the Army Reserve provides 20 percent of the Army's force for less than 6 percent of its budget, and generating $18.5 billion each year in positive economic impact for communities across the country, including 167,000 non-defense jobs.
So what does this mean for Kentucky?
A recent study by George Mason University shows that the Army Reserve has an economic impact of more than $306 million in our state. In addition to the soldiers who serve in our 74 Kentucky units, we support 3,400 non-defense jobs in 36 communities. We have a total military payroll of $102 million and a civilian payroll of $30.9 million.
The Army Reserve brings significant capabilities across Kentucky including medical, aviation, logistics, chemical defense, firefighting, engineering and transportation. A recent change in law makes these skills available to state and local governments during natural disasters or other emergencies.
The 11th Theater Aviation Command, based at Fort Knox, provides air traffic services, airfield management, aeromedical evacuation and other aviation support services. Soldiers from the 11th TAC conducted water-bucket training in support of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to provide assistance during wildfires.
Fort Knox is also home to the 84th Training Command, which oversees training exercises that ensure Army Reserve and Army National Guard units are trained and ready for deployment.
While the commission views installations and talks with soldiers about where the Army is and what it should look like in the years ahead, they will meet with many outstanding Army Reserve soldiers. I'm confident they will see the professionalism, dedication and skill of our Kentucky citizen-soldiers.
Around the world and across Kentucky, today's Army Reserve is an indispensable force.