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Camp Atterbury expansion continues despite cuts

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Some $75 million in construction projects are on pace for completion this year at the Indiana National Guard's Camp Atterbury even as it shifts away from preparing thousands of soldiers a year for combat assignments.

Leaders at the base near Edinburgh say the new barracks, dining hall and rail yard facilities are needed for its increasing number of training programs for military members and civilian emergency workers.

Troop mobilization ended at the base Sept. 30, after 10 years of preparing more than 200,000 military and civilian workers for duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Preparing National Guard and other soldiers for deployments is a mission Camp Atterbury has to be prepared to do whenever ordered, chief operations officer Jack Fowler told tells the Daily Journal.

"We're trying to continue to do the mission that we've had since the mid-'60s," he said. "Mobilization was something we had trained to be ready for. We're just returning to a steady state of the way we've done business."

The end of the mobilization work led to the elimination of about 500 military or civilian jobs at the base about 30 miles south of Indianapolis.

No new jobs are being added with the expansion project, Maj. Lisa Kopczynski said.

The $52 million barracks and dining facility will serve up to 1,100 soldiers at a time once construction finishes in August, Fowler said.

Within the past two years, the post has had more than 5,000 troops stay at one time but had only about 3,000 barracks beds. Soldiers who couldn't stay in a building had to sleep in temporary trailer housing, he said.

The rail project increases the size of the Camp Atterbury rail yard so a full brigade's worth of equipment can be loaded and unloaded, he said. A typical brigade has about 3,600 troops, and they need to be able to load or unload 120 train cars in 72 hours, he said.

About 100,000 troops are expected at Camp Atterbury and its Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in southern Indiana's Jennings County for training programs this year, according to base officials.

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