MEC Meets for Last Time Prior to BRAC List Release

Many of the men and women serving in Iraq right now served right here on posts across the Low Country and Coastal Empire. But will those posts stay open for the next generation?

That's the question with BRAC, the base realignment and closure process, which is starting again. Beaufort's Military Enhancement Committee's fighting to keep the area's three bases.

Today was the committee's last official meeting before defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld releases the BRAC list. Although most MEC members are sitting on pins and needles, they're optimistic.

For the past two years, these volunteers have dedicated their time and energy to saving Beaufort's bases, trying to keep Parris Island, the Marine Corps Air Station, and Naval Hospital Beaufort from appearing on the BRAC list.

"It took a whole community behind this effort," said the committee's John Payne.

And now that the announcement is just days away, MEC members are anxious to see if their hard work pays off.

"We're waiting," said Bob Semler. "We want to see what happens. We're cautious, we're excited if you will. We want to get to that point so we can get on with what we need to do next."

They may not know the outcome yet, but after a half a dozen trips to Washington, DC, to tell Beaufort's story to top military leaders and countless hours of work, the group is confident they've exhausted every avenue.

"At this point absolutely, we've done all we could do to this point," said Semler.

The group's consultant is optimistic the Tri-Command will stand, but most of the MEC is still a little hesitant. "I'm cautiously optimistic," said Payne. "More cautious."

"I'm cautious, I'm not going to pop that Champaign cork until the end of the game," added Semler.

But even if Beaufort survives BRAC, the MEC members still have a lot of work ahead of them.

"Other communities that have military instillations on the list are going to work doubly hard to get off the list and that means we have to protect ours," noted Semler.

Secretary Rumsfeld is expected to release the BRAC list this friday. We will have more about that announcement and reaction as the list is made public.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey,