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FORT BENNING, Ga. — With fewer recruits coming through its gates, Fort Benning is deactivating one of its basic training units and reorganizing others in a move that will shed 71 jobs at the Army post in west Georgia.
Troops assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 192nd Infantry Brigade are scheduled to retire the training unit's colors during a ceremony Monday. Three other battalions tasked with training new recruits at Fort Benning will undergo reorganization in June, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported Saturday.
The changes are part of an Army-wide initiative to downsize its ranks now that the war in Iraq has ended and the U.S. military is moving toward withdrawing from Afghanistan. As a result, Fort Benning officials say they're training about 23 percent fewer recruits — an estimated 96,600 this fiscal year compared to 120,000 in 2010.
"The pipeline started slowing down," said Fort Benning spokesman Gary Jones.
The reduced demand for training means Fort Benning will shed positions for 44 soldiers and 27 civilian workers.
Jones said commanders were able to ensure nobody would be laid off. Some workers may take early retirement or voluntary separation incentives. Others will get new jobs in the Army post without taking a pay cut.
"They will be put in vacant positions elsewhere at Fort Benning," Jones said. "None of the civilian employees will lose one penny, even if they have to go to a job lesser in pay grade."
None of the Fort Benning job cuts are related to the automatic budget cuts that went into effect March 1 as the president and Congress were unable to reach a deal on cutting the federal deficit.
Retired Lt. Gen. Sam Wetzel, a former Fort Benning commander, said he's not surprised by the reductions on the Georgia Army post.
"That was predictable, frankly, unfortunately," Wetzel said. "If we have any big war, we are going to have to ramp up again."