To Battle We Go: BRAC
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
When the Cold War came to an end (or did it?) in the early 1990’s the US military responded by making huge cuts in manpower, facilities, weapons, and equipment. For example, there were once nearly 500,000 US troops stationed in Europe, the front lines of the Cold War. Today it’s around 35,000.
When I joined the US Army music program in 1980 there were 57 US Army bands. Today there are 24. Oh, and there was also the little matter of cutting our nuclear arsenal in half.
But by far the most difficult and politically sensitive thing our military had to do was close bases in the United States, because those bases were located in all 50 states and had a huge impact on their local economies. So, Congress came up with BRAC, the Base Realignment and Closure Act, which has closed over 350 bases and installations worldwide over the last 30 years.
BRAC has affected several of my old units. My first band, the 24th Infantry Division Band, no longer exists, and neither does the division, although the base, Ft. Stewart, GA, is still active. My second band, the 214th Army Band, no longer exists, and the base on which it was located, Ft. McPherson (in Atlanta), is closed, except for the part that is now Tyler Perry’s film studios. (I try not to take it personally!)
Despite all the cuts, no one can say that our military is less effective that it was 30 years ago. In fact, the opposite is true. The individual soldier, marine, sailor, and airmen is better trained, better equipped, and far more effective today than ever. Sometimes, less is more.
Salvationists of a certain age (that would be me) sometimes lament what used to be—the corps they grew up in, old corps buildings, old divisions, old camps, this or that program that no longer exists, corps officers or local officers they loved who are now Promoted to Glory, former comrades no longer in the ranks—and long for the good old days. And it’s certainly true that things aren’t what they used to be in the Army.
But I wonder if our Army wouldn’t do well to initiate its own BRAC program to evaluate and prune away things that no longer serve the mission today. True, it can be a little shocking, and even disheartening, to see things we once held dear go. But putting time, talents, and resources into places and programs that aren’t bearing fruit isn’t good stewardship of what the Lord has provided for us.
Better, I think, to concentrate on training and equipping a new generation of Salvationists who are completely focused on the mission, and not so concerned with what was and is no more. Perhaps less can be more for The Salvation Army as it has been for the US Army.
And we old-timers will try not to take it personally!