POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Fort Bragg will bring more than 20,000 people to the Fayetteville area through the latest round of base closures and realignments, military officials said Thursday.
Fayetteville Mayor-elect Tony Chavonne said he is trying to prepare the community for the growth and the military contractors who will relocate closer to neighboring Fort Bragg after the Army's Forces Command and Reserve Command move from the Atlanta area. Those contractors will bring well-paying jobs, he said.
"As we learn more, it looks like the opportunity is even larger" than expected, Chavonne said.
It's still unclear exactly how many people will be shifted to the area, military officials said. The base closure plan that became law Wednesday gave Pope Air Force Base, which is next to Fort Bragg, to the Army, but kept some active-duty airman at the base. Pope officers said Thursday they didn't know exactly how many Air Force personnel will remain.
They do know that the base closure plan calls for the 43rd Airlift Wing, the major command at Pope, to be deactivated and its 25 C-130E aircraft to be sent elsewhere. The 36 A-10 fighter planes from the base's 23rd Fighter Group will go to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
The airlift wing ferries paratroopers from Fort Bragg around the world, but the Pentagon proposed leaving just an Air Force Reserve unit with 16 planes to handle the duties. The state's lobbyists wanted an active-duty unit and the commission agreed, calling for bringing 16 newer C-130H aircraft to Pope from General Mitchell Air Reserve Station in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Fort Bragg, in addition to the new commands, will get a combat brigade of 3,500 to 3,900 paratroopers.
Fort Bragg, home to the 82nd Airborne Division, the 18th Airborne Corps and the Army Special Operations Command, already is the Army's largest post with about 45,000 soldiers.
The estimated newcomers to Fort Bragg include 6,772 soldiers, more than 12,100 family members and 1,699 civilians, according to garrison commander Col. Al Aycock. The personnel gain does not include the airmen and families who will be leaving Pope Air Force Base, Aycock said.
Under a timeline presented Thursday, Forces Command and Reserve Command officials will begin to arrive at Bragg in fiscal year 2009. The transfer of ownership of Pope Air Force Base to Fort Bragg also is set to begin in fiscal year 2009.
Aycock assured business and community officials that Fort Bragg would work with Pope and other organizations to assist personnel relocation.
"To our community, we pledge to continue to work in the same manner that has always formed strong bonds," Aycock said.