Ft Lewis Prepares

washington
MICHAEL GILBERT; The News Tribune

Last updated: April 8th, 2005 04:40 PM

Temporary buildings are popping up like mushrooms all across Fort Lewis these days as the post prepares for the arrival of thousands of new Soldiers and their families. The Army Corps of Engineers is putting up temporary facilities to house battalion and company headquarters, maintenance shops and motor pools, chow halls and medical clinics.

It’ s all to make way for the 3,900 Soldiers moving to Fort Lewis with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, La…..

The troops will bring an estimated 11,000 family members with them over the course of the Spring and Summer, officials said.

Across the post, officials are making preparations. Col. Steven Perrenot, the Fort Lewis public works director, said unused dining facilities in some barracks complexes are being opened to meet the need.

At Madigan Army Medical Center, they’ ll open a 20,000-square-foot satellite clinic in November to serve the 2nd Cavalry’ s Soldiers and family members, said Lt. Col. Diane Flynn, chief of the department of family medicine.

&#34 The target date is Nov. 1 of this year. I’ m keeping my fingers crossed but certainly it will be within a short time of that date, &#34 Flynn said Thursday.

The facility, in a temporary building, will offer primary care, X-ray, lab, physical therapy and mental health services, she said. Madigan will be hiring five new family practice doctors as well as nurses to staff the new clinic.

Thomas Poole, the Corps of Engineers program manager at Fort Lewis, said in all 231 temporary buildings will go up in the next several months, adding 453,000 square feet of space, at a cost of $52 million.

Another $42 million worth of site improvements, utilities and renovations at motor pools, barracks, aircraft hangars and aprons is also being done.

The hangar and apron upgrades are to make way for the helicopter battalion from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment that is moving to Fort Lewis from Fort Campbell, Ky.

About 15 to 20 members of the battalion will move to Fort Lewis this year to prepare for the arrival in 2006 of the remaining 450 or so Soldiers. They operate MH-60 Black Hawks and MH-47 Chinooks.

All the temporary facilities being built are in addition to long-term, permanent barracks and other facilities the Army is building for the units already stationed at Fort Lewis -“ including three major barracks complexes costing around $50 million each.

The 2nd Cavalry spent a year in Iraq in 2003-2004 before returning home last summer to learn it would be moving to Fort Lewis and undergoing transformation to a Stryker infantry brigade.

The regiment is scheduled to complete that process by December 2006.

The 2nd Cavalry was based in West Germany during the Cold War, fought decisive battles against Iraqi tanks in the first gulf war and then moved to Fort Lewis in 1992.

But it was moved again the next year to Fort Polk, La., where it helped train the Army’ s light infantry forces at the Joint Readiness Training Center.

The regiment was sent to Haiti in 1995-96 for security and humanitarian operations, and then to the Balkans in 1997.

In Iraq the regiment operated in eastern Baghdad.

Technically, the 2nd Cavalry’ s move to Fort Lewis is considered temporary. The Army isn’ t making any permanent changes to its basing and force structure until after the pending round of base closures, set to begin in May.

But there are lots of troops out there to be moved -“ 70,000 to be brought home from Germany, for instance.

Even without any more troops moving this way, Fort Lewis could become an even more crowded place by late this year. That’ s when the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division is due home.

That would have three of the Army’ s Stryker brigades -“ more than 12,000 troops in all -“ home for the holidays.

How much room does Fort Lewis have to grow?

&#34 If I said today how much we could take, it would be a wild guess, &#34 Perrenot said. &#34 But we are evaluating that. &#34

Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921

mike.gilbert@thenewstribune.com

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