Doug Colllins’ district is hours away from Fort Benning but the congressman from Gainesville still feels a closeness to the historic Army installation.
Camp Frank D. Merrill, the mountainous outpost where the 5th Ranger Battalion goes to train, is in the 9th district and as an Air Force reserve chaplain Collins has a deep interest in the future of Fort Benning and other military installations in Georgia.
On a visit to Columbus this week the Republican congressman talked about upcoming Base Closure and Realignment Commission discussions and though he believes the bases in Georgia are in better shape than other states he advises Columbus to be diligent.
“If you want to preserve what you have at Fort Benning you should show the attitude that you want this base and remind everyone that it has a vital role in our national defense,” said Collins, who was first elected to the 9th district post in 2013.
Collins thinks military bases in Columbus, Savannah, Augusta and Valdosta are relatively safe but past experience teaches everyone involved what can happen when BRAC starts to work. The last time around Atlanta lost Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson and lost Dobbins Air Force Base.
As the sixth largest base in the United States with a long history as the home of the Infantry, the base is well known as a training ground for foot soldiers. Then, in 2010 BRAC decided to relocate the Armor School to Georgia.
These important training missions keeps Fort Benning’s foot in the door, but Collins says Columbus should continue to build on a close relationship with a base that has been a neighbor since 1917.
“Never underestimate the power of military families,” he said. “They can help in so many ways.”
Collins is a veteran of the Iraq War and is both an ordained Baptist minister and a lawyer. In recent years he worked on legislation that deeded Dahlonega’s Camp Merrill to the Army. “That reminded me how connected our sections of Georgia really are,” he said.