“We continue to work that diligently, and it’s a potential economic engine for this area if we can get approved,” said Col. William “Brad” Smith, Camp Shelby commander.
The Department of Defense is expected to spend about $7 billion to bring home about $36 billion worth of war material.
Camp Shelby, which will continue its longtime mission of training reserve Army units, is one of five military installations in South Mississippi that together would have the familiarity and expertise to handle equipment from every branch of the military: Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
The “South Mississippi Defense Corridor” also includes installations along the Gulf Coast at Keesler Air Force Base, Combat Readiness Training Center, Naval Construction Battalion Center, 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group and Stennis Space Center.
“What’s in your area is really ripe to be on the ticket,” said Theresa Adams, executive director of the University of Wisconsin’s National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education.
CFIRE is acting in a consulting capacity to military planners trying to identify the most logical and economical manner to return, redeploy, redistribute and dispose of the equipment.
Adams said the $570 million restoration of the deep-water Port of Gulfport, the region’s main highway arteries and easy access to railroads made South Mississippi an attractive candidate.
“This is really viable, and this could really save a lot of money in maintaining the whole transportation and traffic impact in bringing back this equipment, get it to where it needs to be, with the proper motor pools and skills to be able to repair it or renovate it, decommission or recommission it as needed.” Adams said.
Smith said with the drawdown continuing, Camp Shelby’s daily workforce will shrink from about 3,500 military personnel and contractors on base daily during mobilization to about 1,800 by the end of the federal government’s current fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The camp annually averaged about 50,000 soldiers who were preparing to embark to the Middle East or were returning from a tour of duty from 2004 through March.
Smith said Camp Shelby will continue to remain true to its roots, while adjusting to the changing needs of the modern military.
“This summer, you’re going to see some 20,000 soldiers, generally from the southeast United States, come through Camp Shelby,” he said. “It’ll be something similar to what it was prior to mobilization. But we’re trying to rebrand and seek other markets. Unmanned aerial systems is a big piece of it and the transportation piece is a big part of it, so we’re just trying to seek opportunities while they are available.”
Smith said the base should continue to play a viable part in the nation’s defense in the future.
“Camp Shelby will always be in the game, so to speak,” he said.