The transformation of Fort Meade from a military reservation to an administrative post is beginning to take shape as two major units -- both of which served in the Persian Gulf War -- prepare to depart.
The 519th Military Police Battalion and the 85th Medical Battalion could leave as early as August, with various detachments spread out from New York to Alaska.
And the Department of Defense is seriously considering consolidating and moving its training school -- which teaches public affairs --to Fort Meade, base spokesman Don McClow said.
"We will be growing in the next couple of years," said Col. Kent D. Menser, garrison commander of Fort Meade. "Our focus in the past has been training troops in the field. That is going to stop. Think of us as a large collegecampus. We think it will be positive, not only for the post, but forthe community."
The changes are the result of the base losing itsfiring ranges, used since World War I. The Army turned over 7,600 acres to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on Oct. 1., as part of a nationwide base closure and realignment program.
"That changes the picture on us," McClow said, adding that reserve troops which trained for the Gulf war last year may have to find somewhere else to practice.
Menser said plans already are under way to expand the post, including a $14.5 millionaddition to the shopping center and construction of two new day-carecenters.
"The future is very bright for us," he said, "but we areconcerned about orderly growth. We are concerned that if we don't plan, progress will overtake us."
The departure of the two battalions will mean the loss of about 460 troops. One, the 519th Military Police Battalion was established in 1927 and first entered combat in thePacific Theater of operation.
It served in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf wars. Next summer, the 340 troops could find themselves at other posts, including:
* The headquarters detachment, which is the administrative arm of the battalion, will move its staff of 50to Fork Polk, Louisiana.
* The 209th MP Company will move 145 people to Fort McClellan, Alabama.
* The 293rd MP Company will move 145 people to Fort Stewart, Georgia.
*One detachment will remain atFort Meade to provide law enforcement on base.
McClow said an additional 50 MPs also will be transferred to the Odenton base. "I don'tknow when they are coming or where they are coming from," he said.
The second battalion scheduled to leave is the 85th Medical, a non-divisional unit which set up and ran battalion aid stations during the Persian Gulf War. It was organized in 1944 and activated for combatduty during World War II, serving in the central Europe campaigns.
* The headquarters detachment and the 252nd Medical Detachment willgo to Fort Lewis, in Washington. The headquarters command has 34 people; the 252nd detachment has three.
* The 250 Medical Detachment will move three people to Fort Drum, in New York.
* The 138th Medical Detachment, with an authorized strength of one, will go to Alaska, but McClow said he did not know which base.
* Other small units,with a total of 65 people, will be made inactivate and the troops will be reassigned.
McClow said the defense school currently has 600students and 500 instructors and staff spread over three campuses from Florida to Indiana. "I don't want to imply that the size of the faculty would be the same if they consolidated here," McClow said. "Nobody knows what the size of the staff would be."
The school's main campus is located at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, which is scheduled to close under the base realignment plan. It has 236 students, 110 instructors and 90 support personnel, McClow said.