Fort Knox is being elevated in U.S. Army circles and the benefits are expected to spill over into the regional economy.
The Pentagon announced plans late Tuesday afternoon to locate its new corps headquarters at the post after initially considering 31 locations. It will be known as the Fifth Corps or V Corps and headed by a three-star general yet to be named.
The decision means 635 additional soldiers at Fort Knox with responsibilities for supporting U.S. forces and operations in Europe and to help meet National Defense Strategy and the Army’s modernization and readiness needs.
The headquarters, which is scheduled for activation in October, will maintain a rotational Operational Command Post in Europe.
“Fort Knox was chosen based on time required to facilitate activation of the headquarters, cost, the ability to facilitate future expansion if required and minimizing disruption to other, current missions at the installation,” according to the official letter of notification from T.C. Williams, senior liaison for policy and readiness in the Pentagon for the Department of the Army.
The decision was months in the making, said Jim Iacocca, president and CEO of the Knox Regional Development Alliance, which was founded five years ago to promote new missions at the post.
Iacocca said the announcement follows “a great group effort” involving Fort Knox, KRDA and Kentucky’s Congressional delegation.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who pledged to use the influence of his role as Senate majority leader to help bring the corps to Kentucky, noted Fort Knox’s suitability for the tasks in a statement Tuesday.
“Throughout its 100-plus years of distinguished history, Fort Knox has adapted to complete many high-priority missions,” McConnell said. “I’ve delivered substantial federal investment to help build facilities and infrastructure at Fort Knox, ensuring there is no installation better prepared to stand-up this headquarters.”
Iacocca said the entire community should share in this success.
“We have a wonderfully supportive community and Fort Knox has the capacity and capability to meet this need,” he said.
In addition to the on-post payroll boost, local officials expect the command to attract contractors and other related positions relocate here.
“Because of what this is, it will mean growth and contractors interested in locating here,” Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall said Tuesday. “This will be huge for the community around the post.”
“This is great for our community and great for the post,” said Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry, who entered local politics after retiring from the Army.
Duvall and Iacocca were in San Antonio, Texas, at the Association of Defense Communities’ annual three-day meeting when the announcement was made.
The pending corps announcement created a buzz at the association meeting, according to Duvall. As speculation about the decision grew, Iacocca said he experienced no nervous butterflies as he cautiously allowed his anticipation of good news to grow.
Duvall said they had been told Fort Knox was one of three finalists for the headquarters along with Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Drum, New York. He received the official word of Fort Knox’s selection from Congressman Brett Guthrie at 5 p.m. just 15 minutes before the Army released its official statement.
“Fort Knox and the surrounding communities have the assets and the attitude to host these new soldiers and their families,” said Guthrie, a former Army officer. “Kentucky is a great place to be a soldier and I look forward to welcoming the over 600 troops that will be coming to Fort Knox as soon as October 2020.”
McConnell, Guthrie and Sen. Rand Paul sent a joint letter last month to Army officials describing the merits of Fort Knox. It was the first public acknowledgment of the pending decision.