By Ed Brock

It is now set in stone. Army Garrison Forts Gillem and McPherson will close.

On Wednesday at noon, in fact, the time ran out for the U.S. Senate to vote on the Base Realignment and Closure list compiled by the Department of Defense and approved by the BRAC Committee and President Bush. As a result the list became law.

However, it will still take up to eight years for the forts to actually shut down. They have two years from Sept. 15, the day the president sent the list to Congress, before they have to start actually moving things out, said Army Col. Angela Manos, garrison commander of the two facilities.

After that they have six years to complete the process, Manos added.

“The key word here is process,” Manos said. “This is only one step and there are many more to come.”

One step has been taken. Manos has formed a Garrison BRAC Office to oversee the transition.

“They'll be here until we turn out the lights and close the door,” Manos said.

The fort will also hire a civilian to serve as the single point of contact for the transition.

The mission and pride of the forts now turns to doing the transition right, Manos said.

Elements on both forts that will be moving to other locations include the 1st Army and 3rd Army headquarters and U.S. Army Reserve Command. The Army's Criminal Investigation Laboratory, the Military Entrance Processing Station and some other military elements will remain in an enclave at the Fort Gillem location.

The Department of Defense's BRAC recommendations were released May 13 after over two years of study, according to Gov. Sonny Perdue's office. Perdue, U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Georgia and other officials fought to remove the two forts, and the Navy Supply Corps School and Naval Air Station Atlanta, from the list.

“Georgia did everything possible to prepare for the BRAC process,” said Perdue. ”We're disappointed that some Georgia bases will be closed, but we plan to be involved with our communities every step of the way during the redevelopment planning and implementation process. Overall, the BRAC recommendations to increase the number of military personnel in Georgia illustrate that our state is critical to national security and the war on terror.”

Overall Georgia will gain approximately 4,000 military and civilian personnel.

The Save Forts McPherson/Gillem Foundation will now change its name to “Friends of the Forts” foundation, said the foundation's head Tom Salter, so they can assist in the transition process.

“It makes sense to have a point of contact,” Salter said.

Manos said she will transfer to another command well before the forts close, but she would return if a closing ceremony is held.

“I would definitely come back for that,” Manos said.