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Editorial: New name for military base reflects post's changing role

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IT will likely take some getting used to for longtime residents of the area, but the new name, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Training Site, that has been proposed for the joint military installations at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is a realistic acknowledgment of the roles played by the two facilities that have reshaped life in south central Indiana.

Looked at from a perspective of self-interest, it’s also a good move in efforts to protect the benefits that have accrued to the bases and their neighboring communities over the past decade.

The proposed name change came about in the wake of reductions by the Defense Department in its manpower commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both Atterbury and Muscatatuck had played critical roles in this country’s involvements in those two wars, serving as training bases for a variety of missions assigned to the thousands of soldiers who were mobilized for active duty.

The role was a familiar one at Camp Atterbury, which served the same function during World War II and the Korean War.

The involvement of the facility at Muscatatuck is relatively new in the annals of military engagement. Until the War on Terror broke out, the facility was an abandoned mental health complex.

Following Atterbury’s designation as a major training center for combat forces after the 2001 attacks, the base underwent a dramatic transformation.

Central to the development of the base for this new role was a creative approach taken by Indiana National Guard leaders, such as Indiana Adjutant General R. Martin Umbarger and former Atterbury Commander Barry Richmond. State officials were able to obtain a massive amount of federal funding to update facilities and create a training area that could prepare soldiers for 21st century warfare.

In another creative use of available resources, National Guard officials saw the empty complex at Muscatatuck as an ideal training site for the urban warfare that had become a staple in Middle East operations. Buildings that had once been used for the treatment and housing of the mentally ill became ideal areas to familiarize soldiers with the kind of military combat in which they could become engaged.

Although these two installations were separated by dozens of miles, they have essentially served as a comprehensive and cohesive single operation with troops being mobilized at Camp Atterbury regularly undergoing training at both locales.

If history were to be used as a model, the Defense Department reductions could be seen as a bad omen. Camp Atterbury and its neighbors went from feast to famine at the conclusion of World War II and the Korean War when the post was shut down.

But so much has been put in place at both installations that their value as a training area is as strong as ever. Both have been positioned to adapt to changed strategies.

They will still be used for training by scores of National Guard units from other states, and the enhanced facilities make them ideal preparation sites for defense contractors as well as State and Defense department employees. They can be used for training of police officers and emergency responders, particularly those who would benefit from large-scale simulated disaster training exercises.

The name and the missions might undergo some changes, but thanks to the creative leadership of a number of National Guard and other state officials, the future for Atterbury-Muscatatuck and its neighbors is still looking good.

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