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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WLTX/AP) - Military boosters in South Carolina are starting a letter writing campaign to show community support for Fort Jackson in hopes of avoiding cuts or closures at the base.

George Goldsmith, a retired two-star Army general who heads the Columbia Chamber of Commerce military support committee, told a group of business representatives and supporters Tuesday the Army wants to hear by Aug. 20th if there is local support for the base. Online petition can be found here.

Encompassing more than 52,000 acres near Columbia, Fort Jackson started in 1917 as an Army Training Center for World War I, and was named after Major General Andrew Jackson. Currently Fort Jackson is the largest and most active Initial Entry training center in the U.S. Army, training 34% of all new Army Soldiers, and 69% of all the women entering the Army.

The Fort also is the sight of the U.S. Army's Adjutant General School, one of the Army's Drill Sergeant School, and NCO Academy, among may other areas of education and professional development under the Soldier Support Institute.

Fort Jackson's approximate economic impact upon the Midlands of South Carolina annually tops $2.5 billion.

Fort Jackson commander Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker told the group it is important that citizens speak out while the Army makes plans about the size of the force. Becker says the base trains 45,000 soldiers every year and could train even more if the Army requires it.

Goldsmith says Fort Jackson can train soldiers efficiently and save the Army money.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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