Fort's community role stressed by new chief Frketic says Army base no longer self-sufficient

October 14, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Col. John D. Frketic trots to the podium in the banquet room of the Fort Meade Officers Club and launches into a briefing on the status and future of the installation, complete with overhead transparencies.

The "Fort Apache mentality" of self-sufficient military bases must be abandoned, the new Fort Meade garrison commander tells his audience. The base must instead work with the surrounding community, sharing things such as waste-water treatment facilities.

An officer for 22 years, Frketic (pronounced FREDIK) took command in July of a base that is essentially a landlord for Department of Defense and government tenants such as the National Security Agency. He replaced Col. David H. Toops, who left to take an assignment in the Pentagon.

Eleven weeks into his new job, Frketic is sounding the same theme as previous commanders, right down to the Fort Apache analogy: Fort Meade wants to be more open and work more closely with civilian communities as part of the regional economy.

"We are not the enemy," he said over a buffet lunch at the officers club dining room. "For so long, military installations were self-sufficient. That is not the modern way of doing business. The modern way is that we are as open and active members of the community as [Northrop Grumman] is."

About 25,800 civilians and 9,000 military personnel on base have a combined annual payroll of $1.4 billion, according to Fort Meade figures.

The difference between Frketic and his predecessors is that he is taking over as changes at the fort are becoming physically obvious. A laboratory and office building for the Environmental Protection Agency is near completion yards from Route 175 in a swath of land the Army has earmarked for more office buildings. The area fronts the North Odenton business strip, no longer the Boomtown of the fort's days as a bustling mobilization center for young troops.

Fort Meade still bustles, though the tank and artillery training are long gone. With the EPA, Defense Information School and other tenants arriving, Fort Meade by 2000 will have more than 1,000 more civilian and military employees than it did in 1992. And while 120 civilian jobs have been cut in Fort Meade departments such as public works over the past year, Frketic said the base's budget will cover the remaining employees for at least two years.

Most capital improvements on the base were planned before Frketic arrived, but he does plan to have a $30,000 running track built around McGlachlin Field at the corner of Mapes Road and Cooper Avenue for soldiers who now jog on a dirt path.

Area leaders say Frketic has made a good first impression.

"He seems to have hit the ground running," said Jay Winer, an Odenton developer and a member of a committee working on revitalization of the area. "He was more open and outgoing than I expected him to be for just coming into the post. I think that

bodes well."

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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