FORT JACKSON - The Army's largest basic training installation is going to train up to 63,000 soldiers in each of the next two years despite ongoing troop cuts, the post's commander said Wednesday.
Brig. Gen. Bradley Becker, who took charge of Fort Jackson in central South Carolina in August, told reporters that while the installation has been affected by recent government furloughs and budget issues, he expects it to remain a key Army training site.
"We're always going to have to produce soldiers," he said. "I think Fort Jackson will be here for a very long time."
The one-star general met with reporters to discuss his first months in office since taking the helm in late August. He is a veteran of three deployments to Iraq; a posting in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf conflict; and assignments in Germany, Korea, Fort Lewis, Wash., Hawaii and the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
While the Army is slated to drop to 490,000 from its wartime high of about 570,000 troops, Becker said he is confident Fort Jackson will maintain its primary role as a combat training school. He pointed out that Fort Jackson produces about 54 percent of the Army's soldiers.
The post is also home to a school for Army drill sergeants and chaplains for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Schools on the site also train soldiers as mechanics and administrative assistants.
Becker said he's heard no discussion about Fort Jackson being placed on any possible list for a new round of base closure, and that he intends to make sure that Fort Jackson "stays relevant."
The general said his first goal is to take a long, hard look at the training soldiers are undergoing, to see if some adjustments must be made.
Top Army and Pentagon officials are warning commanders that conflicts in the future probably won't be like the anti-insurgent kinds in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor will U.S. forces have the ability to rely on overseas bases and a huge "tail" of logistics support.
Becker said that means Army soldiers may have to learn new skills in order fulfill their mission of defeating the nation's foes, no matter what kind of combat they must face.