An unlikely group of soldiers were sworn into duty on Monday at Festival Park. The group, comprised of retired businessmen, housewives, artists and local politicians gladly stepped up to enlist in a new army — The Army’s Army.
Led by Jim Konneker, a retired businessman, the army’s mission is pretty straightforward: to “Watch over those who watch over us.” The group, formerly known as the local BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) committee, has its sights set on its new mission: telling the nation about Cumberland County and its people.
    Konneker explained that the introduction of the Army’s Army is the first step in a comprehensive marketing campaign to sell Cumberland County to not only the soldiers and families who will be moving to the area as a result of BRAC, but also to business and industry.{mosimage}
    “We are very proud of our military friends,” said Konneker. “This community has been watching over them for a very long time, and now we want to let those folks who are going to be relocating here know that we will watch out for them.”
    Konneker said the group, a grassroots idea, will reach out to the soldiers and civilians affected by BRAC and help them relocate. “We will help them find that dentist, that school district, that church that they are looking for,” he said.
The effort to form the Army’s Army began two years ago under the direction of Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne and then Chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Billy King.
    “They wanted to know how we, as a community, were preparing for the influx of people from BRAC,” said Kirk deViere, a member of the group. “At that time we began gathering volunteers from every segment of the community — healthcare, public safety, housing, schools — and formed modules to take a look at these areas.”
    deViere said the groups met and discussed the issues and formulated a plan on the best way the community could position itself to ensure that the people moving to the area because of BRAC chose Cumberland County as the place to live. “What came out of that strategic planning initiative was the Army’s Army concept. We are the world’s only all-volunteer organization that has pledged its total support to the military, because at the end of the day, we are a military town.”
    The decision of the community to embrace its history as a military town, rather than ignoring it, is a change in the thought process for many in the community. “We are embracing the fact that we are a military town,” said deViere. “Some communities have golf or lakes or other things to draw people. We believe that it is our dedication, and our willingness to watch over and take care of military and their families that makes our community unique. And, by the way, if you want to golf or are interested in the arts or any of those things, we’ve got you covered.”
    The establishment of the Army’s Army on Monday is only a first step in the process. Over the coming months the group will be reaching out to others in the community to bring them on to the team. deViere said the best people to tell Cumberland County’s story to those considering moving here are the people who live here. To that end, the organization wants to build a virtual community, which will put individuals preparing to the community in touch with local residents who will answer their questions and put them on the right track.
    “The best way we can tell other people about our community is for our citizens to tell their story,” said Konneker.

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