Fort Riley sets goal of improving post, region

FORT RILEY — Leaders of the Army's 1st Infantry Division outlined a plan Friday to improve the lives of soldiers and their families at Fort Riley and make the post the most desirable in the nation.

Details of the plan, called Campaign 2015, were presented at the northeast Kansas Army post. It includes ways to work with surrounding communities to make Fort Riley a better place to be stationed.

Among the goals are expanded infrastructure on and off the installation, including expansion of the Manhattan airport to handle troop deployments.

The plan also is heavy on expanding health care and recreation services for soldiers, families and retirees.

"That's what our objective is," said Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, division commander.

More than 16,000 soldiers are stationed at the post, many arriving with their families when the Army returned the 1st Infantry Division headquarters to Kansas after a decade in Germany.

The post will grow to more than 19,000 soldiers in the next five years, with an estimated economic impact of more than $1.8 billion annually.

"This builds on that," Brooks said. "We're not satisfied with the development of Fort Riley. We know there is more work to be done."

Col. Patrick Frank, who led the plan's development, said one critical issue will be traffic congestion when all three of the division's combat brigades return from war in 2012 and 2013. Access roads leading to Fort Riley will need to be expanded.

"We are seeking resources and assistance to help us fulfill that vision," Frank said. That would require additional spending by the state and local governments.

Community leaders said they appreciated that the plan was measurable and that there was accountability for the expenditure of resources.

The Army has invested $1.38 billion in building barracks, airfields, child care facilities and administrative offices at the post. On Friday, Fort Riley opened its sixth child development center. It plans to open three more in the coming months.

Sonya Douglas of the child and youth services office said the new facilities have helped Fort Riley eliminate a waiting list for child care that exceeded 300 in 2007. By August there will be slots for nearly 1,500 children aged 6 weeks to 5 years.

However, the plan calls for additional state and local investment around Fort Riley, including additional roads to improve access to the post from Manhattan and Junction City and more schools to handle growth.

John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor's Military Council, said the plan helps inform state and local officials about the post's needs.

"We work very hard to understand what they want, what they're planning," Armbrust said. "This ties in nicely with what we already do."