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Mission change for Atterbury may mean new jobs

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An Indiana military institution that has been a training site for thousands of deploying troops is getting a new name and a new peacetime mission.

Camp Atterbury, near Edinburgh, about 40 miles south of Indianapolis, was built in 1941 for World War II but saw its training role expand dramatically in 2003 when it was activated as a mobilization site for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The facility has since deployed more than 175,000 service members and civilians.

The installation will soon be known as Atterbury-Muscatatuck or the Atterbury-Muscatatuck training site, garrison commander Col. Ivan Denton told the Daily Journal of Franklin.

The new name will help integrate the facility with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in southern Indiana. The former state hospital has been transformed into a city-like setting where soldiers from around the world come for realistic urban training.

The changes come as the site shifts its mission from war preparation to peacetime training. The post that once prepared 20,000 soldiers for combat each year is expected to see just 5,000 this year following the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq and the scheduled withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. The post doesn't expect to mobilize any service members next year — the first time that would happen in a decade.

The installation will be deactivated as mobilization site next year and will focus on training National Guard units from Indiana, northern Kentucky, western Ohio and eastern Illinois. Camp Atterbury also will continue to stage homeland security and NATO-led training exercises and train defense contractors and employees of the State Department and Department of Defense.

Denton said the post will continue to seek growth opportunities. He noted that it currently employs eight people who work to protect U.S. computer networks but someday could add hundreds of jobs in that field if Camp Atterbury begins training soldiers for cyber warfare or serves as a home base for service members who'd work to prevent hackers and cyber attacks.

"Our thought is that if they're going to do training somewhere in the United States, they can do it here cheaper and more effectively," he said.

Tying the installation to Muscatatuck makes sense on many levels, military officials say.

Denton said the two facilities already were under the same command and deeply intertwined in their operations.

During large training exercises, for example, military units often stage at Camp Atterbury and then train at Muscatatuck. They sometimes take helicopters from Muscatatuck back to Camp Atterbury during simulated medical evacuations to field hospitals. Atterbury often serves as the command post while soldiers go room to room hunting for the enemy or rescuing dummies from rubble at Muscatatuck, the training site near Butlerville.

"The two are really one and the same, and that's what we're trying to show," said Maj. Lisa Kopczynski, Camp Atterbury's spokeswoman.

Denton said treating the locations as a single facility could help preserve federal funding for training, staffing and facilities. The absence of deploying and returning soldiers will mean a sizable cut in federal funding and a reduction of 500 military and civilian jobs at the post.

Last year, Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck received about $460 million in mostly federal funds to pay for salaries and benefits, supplies, training exercises and construction, Denton said. This year, that funding is projected to be cut by nearly a fourth to about $350 million.

Denton said he expects the cuts to be temporary and that the post could rehire as many as 200 of the service members and contractors by the end of 2013.

He said Camp Atterbury has an advantage over other training facilities because it's in the middle of the country and has the infrastructure for a wide variety of training.

Despite its shifting mission, Camp Atterbury could still serve as a mobilization site in the future, Denton said — but on a much smaller scale.

"If they needed to mobilize 1,000 or 3,000 soldiers, we could do that," he said. "It doesn't have to be all or nothing with the size."

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