3rd Infantry Division Commander Addresses Potential Cutbacks - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

3rd Infantry Division Commander Addresses Potential Cutbacks

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Major General John Murray 3rd Infantry Division Commander Major General John Murray 3rd Infantry Division Commander
SAVANNAH, GA -

Being in charge of the 3rd Infantry Division these days isn't just about dealing with soldiers, but everything surrounding the brigades, both on and off base.

$5.6 billion. That's how much money Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield bring in to the local economy. That's why talk of cutting as many as 3500 soldiers from the bases sends local businesses into a panic.

But Major General John Murray, who has been 3rd ID commander since August, doesn't want to use the word cuts, but realignment instead.  

By moving units around and changing their missions, General Murray hopes to keep as many as 1400 of those 2nd Brigade soldiers in the area.  There's talk of more changes coming, and Murray says no amount of moving can keep that round of  cuts from coming.

"Every installation is going to be looked at," explains the General. "The future is very uncertain and its based upon the thought process the Army needs to be smaller, sequestration, shrinking budgets. Unfortunately and fortunately the Army is people. The other services are equipment, the Army is people and people are the most expensive piece of it."

The general told News 3 there was nothing right about the forced four day "vacation" for civilian contractors during the government shutdown.  

Those workers haven't had a pay raise in 3 years, and more cutbacks means a bump doesn't appear on the horizon.  

But at least they have jobs.  The unemployment rate for soldiers is almost 13%. That's compared to 8.7% for the rest of Georgia.

General Murray believes while the Army needs to do a better job preparing soldiers for the outside world, the community has to help too.

"I think in many ways it's a partnership to make sure soldiers understand the opportunities they have," said General Murray. "And making local employers knowledgeable of the qualities they can get by hiring a soldier, either retired or getting out after 3,4,5 years in the Army."

Murray singles out ACAP, the Army Career and Alumni Program, as a way to help soldiers with job placement. There could be even more needing jobs soon.  

By 2015, the Army is drawing down to as few as 490,000 active soldiers nationwide. That's down from the current level of 570,000.  Murray's next job will be finding the "right" soldiers to keep. So when the numbers go down, the effectiveness of the force will not.

Another growing problem as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan end, and more soldiers return home, PTSD and soldier suicide.

General Murray says the stigma behind asking for help needs to end.

"There is nobody that is the same today as they were before they started this," explained Murray. "There's nobody who has not been affected by this in some way. Realizing that understanding, that understanding that your chain of command is there to help. It just takes you to say I need to talk to somebody, I need some help."

Murray added that the 3rd Infantry Division is also working hard to identify soldiers' issues before they start. Issues including alcohol and drugs, both on and off base.

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