The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, December 6, 2007, at 10:00 AM, in McAuliffe Hall, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Senator Elizabeth Tori, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, and Dick Roeding; Representatives Sheldon E. Baugh, Larry Belcher, Bill Farmer, Fred Nesler, Tom Riner, Charles Siler, Ancel Smith, and John Tilley.
Guests: Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, 101st Airborne Division; Colonel Frederick Swope, Garrison Commander; Carter Hendricks, Senior V.P. of Community and Military Affairs; Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Robert Nichols; Royce Wood, Kentucky Army; Mayor Dan Kemp, Hopkinsville; and Chuck Henderson, Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce.
LRC Staff: Erica Warren, CSA, Mustapha Jammeh, Tyler Campbell, and Rhonda Schierer.
Co-Chair Tori asked Erica Warren, CSA, to read two Committee Resolutions honoring the following soldiers who lost their lives in the Global War on Terrorism: Sergeant Edward Philpot and Master Sergeant Thomas L. Bruner. She asked the committee to stand and observe a moment of silence to honor the memories of these fallen soldiers. Both resolutions were unanimously adopted by voice vote.
Co-Chair Tori introduced Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, 101st Airborne Division.
Major General Jeffrey Schloesser welcomed the committee and guests and provided an overview of the Fort Campbell U.S. Army Base. Major Schloesser discussed war responsibilities, long-term planning, and strategic priorities. He briefed the committee on the number of soldiers and family members stationed at Fort Campbell and living in Kentucky and Tennessee communities. Major Schloesser added that military retirees live in these communities due to the close proximity of Fort Campbell and the low cost of living. He added that Fort Campbell's economic disbursement is over $2 billion annually.
Major Schloesser stated in summary, Fort Campbell is one of the Army's premier training and development installations; Fort Campbell is transforming to support changes brought on by AMF, BRAC, and GDPR; and unsurpassed community support, a dedicated workforce, and a favorable cost of living makes Fort Campbell a great place to live, work, and train.
Co-Chair Tori thanked Major Schloesser for his overview and stated that the members of the legislature are committed to support and do what they can to help the military.
Co-Chair Tori introduced Colonel Frederick Swope, Garrison Commander, for a brief on the city of Fort Campbell.
Colonel Frederick Swope gave a brief presentation on Fort Campbell and what they do for our nation and discussed some of the challenges they face. He added that out of 130 military installations, Fort Campbell is one of only ten power projection platforms for our nation. These ten projection platforms are where our soldiers live, train, and deploy to and from the war zone. He presented maps showing the direct location of Fort Campbell and noted that the Kentucky state line goes right through the middle of the base. He added that although Fort Campbell is located in 4 counties in Kentucky and Tennessee, they are Fort Campbell, Kentucky because their post office is on the Kentucky side. He stated that he had to abide by Federal, Tennessee, and Kentucky requirements to include environmental laws and easements.
Colonel Swope stated that Fort Campbell is the 3rd largest active duty population installation in our army. He stated their are about 29,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Campbell, 56,000 family members, 10,000 civilians working on base, and 12,000 retiree's in the community. He stated that this creates a major economic drive in the community. Colonel Swope stated that Fort Campbell has the highest reenlistment rate with 60% staying there. He added that they are experiencing a baby boom and averaging about 200 babies a month. Colonel Swope described each of their special forces, hospitals, schools, and housing for soldiers and families.
Colonel Swope discussed the Campbell Army Airfield. It has an 11,800 square foot runway which is the largest in the army and most anything can land there, including the shuttle which has landed there a couple times. He discussed farm land surrounding the base and how the army can negotiate and buy easements from land owners to prevent developers from building so close that the planes flying in and out of the base pose a danger. He stated that they have spent about $3 million to date with the local community in buying easements and rights. Colonel Swope added that they also cooperate with the Kentucky Department of Transportation by matching funds for privacy walls, the improvement of roads, and other projects as needed.
Co-Chair Tori introduced Sergeant Major (Ret.) Robert Nichols to brief the committee on the Fort Campbell Historical Foundation. Major Nichols stated that the Historical Foundation is a private organization. He stated that they are accepting donations and have a campaign led by Fred Thompson and Fred Turner to build the Wings of Liberty Military Museum on Fort Campbell. He stated that it is a $46 million project. He stated they have raised all but about $20 million to finish the project. Major Nichols stated that the mission of the foundation is to support the current Pratt Museum and build the new Wings of Liberty Military Museum. The Pratt Museum has about 14,000 square feet of exhibit space and the new museum will have over 80,000 square feet of space. He stated that there is about a $35 million dollar artifacts collection that cannot all be displayed due to the space restrictions. The new museum has a 33 acre area set aside which will allow visitors direct access from U.S. Hwy. 41-A with no post visitor pass required. He added that the museum will continue to preserve significant historic military artifacts for future generations. Major Nichols gave the committee a packet describing the Wings of Liberty Military Museum in detail which is a part of this record.
Senator Pendleton encouraged committee members to look at the different ways to contribute and pass the information on to other members of the General Assembly for their support in passing legislation to help finish the Wings of Liberty Military Museum. Senator Pendleton added that there has been previous contributions to the Patton Museum in Fort Knox and would appreciate help for the museum at Fort Campbell.
Senator Clark asked if they are actively looking for World War II Veterans that they could use to document stories and history. Colonel Swope stated that they are and have been for about five years now.
Co-Chair Tori stated that she appreciated Colonel Swope's presentation and that the committee would be very anxious to visit the new museum.
Co-Chair Tori announced Carter Hendricks, Senior V.P. of Community and Military Affairs, Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Hendricks thanked the committee for giving them the opportunity to share what they are doing as a regional community to support Fort Campbell, soldiers, and their families. Mr. Hendricks thanked Mayor Dan Kemp, Senator Pendleton, and Representative Tilley for their continued leadership. He gave a brief presentation that described the 20 plus year relationship Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce has with Fort Campbell. He touched on the economic impact of Fort Campbell for the region, Operation Left Turn, which encourages soldiers and their families to turn left off post and live in Kentucky, and supporting our military by exempting active duty military from Kentucky state income tax. Mr. Hendricks announced that Mayor Dan Kemp and Chuck Henderson would speak to the committee briefly.
Mayor Kemp told the committee how important Fort Campbell is to Hopkinsville, Christian County, and the entire region in Western Kentucky. He stated they are trying to recruit military families to live in Hopkinsville and Christian County as they feel military and their families enrich their community. He added that Fort Campbell is the largest employer in both Kentucky and Tennessee which leads to a huge economic impact to the area. Mayor Kemp stated that soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell, living in Tennessee, often cite income tax as a reason to live in Tennessee.
Mr. Henderson spoke on improving Kentucky by supporting our military. He stated that their goal was to increase the number of families choosing to live in Kentucky from 21% to 30% by 2012. This increase represents an additional 850 households and an additional 2,100 people living in and claiming Kentucky as their home of record. He added that this significant gain of population will generate greater property tax, sales tax, and payroll tax receipts for their region and the State of Kentucky. He added that other states including Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, have already exempted active duty military from their state income tax. Several states, including Ohio and Minnesota, are considering such an exemption.
Representative Siler added that he was the primary sponsor of the bill and that saturation of military families throughout the state will defuse the cost very quickly.
Co-Chair Tori announced that upon adjournment the committee would eat lunch with the soldiers and then take a bus tour of Fort Campbell. The meeting adjourned.