Robert Thurman was surprised by the response when he asked co-workers to go to Fort Gordon with him for the post's Independence Day fireworks show.
"They said, 'You can't get on Fort Gordon,'" said Thurman, a member of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's business development committee. Thurman hopes to dispel some of those myths and forge better ties between the community and installation at the chamber's Not Just Coffee event Wednesday.
Though getting on the Army post does require motorists to go through a security check and show proper identification, the post is not completely off-limits to civilians and has many activities that are open to the public.
"I've been in Augusta all my life. Fort Gordon has a golf course, and you can ride horses there. You can do anything recreational," Thurman said.
The Not Just Coffee event, scheduled for 7:30 a.m. at the Columbia County Board of Education office board meeting room on Hereford Farm Road, will feature a panel discussion.
Brig. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, Fort Gordon's commanding general; James Hudgins, Fort Gordon public affairs officer; Pat Buchholz, Fort Gordon's strategic management officer; state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans; and commission Chairman Ron Cross will be on the panel.
Another slot will be filled by either state Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, or U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., depending on whose schedule is open.
Thurman said he hopes that people begin to visit Fort Gordon and that people from Fort Gordon will become interested in what Columbia County has to offer.
"We want them to want to do business here. We want them to live here," he said.
Thurman said the response from Fort Gordon has been positive, and Brig. Gen. Strong has been very supportive.
In a prepared statement, Strong said he was looking forward to the meeting.
"It gives me an opportunity, as I had at the Red, White and Blue celebration this past Memorial Day, to express my appreciation to the leaders and citizens of Columbia County for their continuous support of Fort Gordon and America's military. It means a great deal to our soldiers, their family members and their civilian co-workers to have such an appreciative 'good neighbor,'" he said.
Strong has some issues he's interested in pursuing. He's particularly interested in opening avenues for military spouses to find employment.
"I also intend to discuss how we can enhance our close relationship with one of Georgia's fastest-growing and most progressive counties," he said.
Hudgins said he hopes this would further his mission of getting the word out about Fort Gordon.
"I will be assisting the committee in enhancing the relationship between the post and the public, sharing information and promoting to the public special events," he said.
For more information, call (706) 651-0018.
Another event will bring county leaders to Fort Gordon sometime in October. The details have yet to be worked out.
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