Sunday, November 27, 2011

7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Officially Calls Northwest Florida Home

By Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Johnson, EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (USASOC News Service, Nov. 18, 2011) - After a six year journey, the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) can call Eglin Air Force Base its new home.

On Friday, Oct. 14, the Group held a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by an open house commemorating the completion of its move from Fort Bragg , N.C. as mandated by Congress in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act.
Senior military leaders and members of the community surrounding Eglin AFB attended the ribbon cutting ceremony which kicked off with a High Altitude Low Opening demonstration by two 7th Group Green Berets jumping combat equipment.
The United States Army Special Operations Command parachute demonstration team, the Black Daggers, then followed with an aerial display as they jumped in the POW MIA flag.

"Welcome home. We've been waiting for you," Florida Senator Don Gaetz, who was a guest speaker at the ceremony, said. "We know that the 7th can project the world's most lethal fighting force behind enemy lines anywhere in the world to free the oppressed. Because that is what you do, what we can do is be free and confident and safe and grateful."
The ceremony also included a presentation of the Military Community Covenant, a document signed by military and community leaders representing the commitment to support one another.

"Here in Northwest Florida you can be at home." Gaetz said. "You're on friendly ground. You can know that your children will be our children. We'll hold them close when you're away."

Before the BRAC move to Florida , the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) had called Fort Bragg home for more than 50 years. And unlike most military units, Green Berets will stay in their Special Forces Group most of their military career.
"In retrospect six years ago when congress mandated our move to Eglin it was received with a bit of angst and nervous anxiety," Col. Antonio M. Fletcher, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) commander said. "However, your smiling faces, unconditional community support, the Emerald Coast weather, world class facilities and unprecedented training opportunities quickly erased those fears."

The ribbon cutting ceremony concluded with the Crestview and Niceville High School bands playing the Army Song and the “Ballad of the Green Beret.” Then the gates to the cantonment site were opened and the general public was invited to an Open House.

Locals got to see military working dog, rappelling, and marksmanship demonstrations. Static displays from military vehicles and weapons to combat diver equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles were on hand for the spectators, as well. They also got a chance to eat lunch in the new dining facility and tour the new compound.

The ribbon cutting ceremony and open house not only was a celebration of the completion of the BRAC move, but a thank you to the community for supporting the group through the transition. As if moving more than 1,800 Soldiers, 930 Families, 3,000 dependants and more than 1,300 major pieces of equipment wasn't challenging enough, the group was simultaneously engaging in operations on foreign soil while making the move to Eglin Air Force Base.

"I take great pride in the fact that the 7th Special Forces Group was the only major BRAC unit to make the move while conducting overseas contingency operations in Afghanistan , Iraq and Latin America ," Fletcher said. "This success is directly attributable to our superb Soldiers and the incredible joint civilian and community relationship we enjoy."

On Sept.15, 2005 President George W. Bush approved the BRAC Commission’s recommendations to realign and reorganize the Department of Defense base structure. The Secretary of Defense was required to begin implementing the recommendations by Sept.15, 2007 and to complete them no later than Sep. 15, 2011.

The BRAC Commission’s final recommendation to the President concerning 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) stated, “Specifically, the Commission views that the relocation of the 7th Special Forces Group to Eglin AFB, Fla. , provides this unit an opportunity to achieve outstanding joint training through its collocation with the Air Force Special Operations Command.”
A ground breaking ceremony for the new compound was held at the Air Armament Museum on Eglin AFB March 26, 2009. Within two years, a wooded area once frequented by local hunters, was developed into the 500 acre, $380 million cantonment site it.

To compare the size of the new compound to what was at Fort Bragg, N.C., all of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) and U.S. Special Operations Command facilities combined could fit comfortably into the new 7th Group cantonment site here.

In August 2010, an advanced party of approximately 30 Soldiers and their Families moved from Fort Bragg to Duke Field on Eglin Air Force Base to facilitate the move and ensure support systems for our Families were in place when they arrived.
In the spring of 2011, the Group began packing equipment and vehicles and shipping them by rail and truck to the new location. In May 2011, the bulk of the 7th Group Soldiers and their Families began their move to Eglin. Roughly 150 Soldiers per week moved throughout the summer to the gulf coast, with the last Families arriving in September.

All BRAC requirements were met on or before schedule with the majority of the buildings being completed five months in advance. 7th Group signed for the final building on Sept. 14, 2011 completing the BRAC requirements set forth in 2005. Though the BRAC requirements have been met, construction will continue on the compound over the next few years.

1 comment:

  1. trying to find a former student of mine at SWCS/7th Group....can't find the blog for Eglin Compound


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