GROTON, Conn. - The banner ads placed late last month by CharterFederal Oak Credit Union in Groton newspapers said it all, "WE DIDIT!" and the "It" of course, was sparing the U.S. Navy SubmarineBase from a Pentagon shutdown, a decision made by the BaseRealignment and Closure Commission and which brought lusty cheersfrom employees of the $460 million CU. "We're dancing in theclouds-we're like a bunch of kids that just won the championship ata high school football game," was how Rick Stout, senior vicepresident of operations, summed up the mood of the "Save Our SubBase" campaigners after the BRAC Commission voted Aug. 25 to rejectPentagon recommendations. While the BRAC decision on Groton was ahuge relief to civic leaders here after months of nail biting,there was disappointment and quiet concern among CU executives inother U.S. cities where a military base faces the chopping block ormajor realignments. "Look, BRAC has certainly given us anotherchallenge, but let me tell you that when one of my members asks menow what's going to happen to their credit union, my answer issimple-nothing," declared Michael Guida, president of Fort MonroeCU in Hampton, Va, where the U.S Army installation employing 4,100and whose roots date to the Colonial era, was ordered closed. Guidasaid his $22 million Fort Monroe CU, which this year posted a 23%loan gain and is financially healthy, has plenty of time to adjustto a base closing including relocation of a branch on baseproperty. Looking at the Katrina devastation, there was irony nowthat the Fort Monroe branch on base had been moved there from afree-standing CU facility, which had been blown away a year and ahalf ago by Hurricane Isabelle. Like other CU executives and civicleaders puzzled by the Defense Department decision to close basesnow during war time and national uncertainty, Guida said "there isenough fear in the lives of our soldiers and their families thatthey shouldn't have to worry" about their financial livelihood andthe state of their financial institution. Another base closing -but on a four-year time delay - is now facing the $30 millionCannon FCU in Clovis, N.M. where the Cannon Air Base was strippedof its F-16 squadrons and told to find a new mission to remain openby 2009. "They gave us a reprieve," said Diane Antill, president ofCannon, who like other CU executives elsewhere had lobbied withCongressional delegations and state governors to plead their casewith BRAC for local bases to stay open. "We have 18 months nowuntil the fighter wing leaves the area so we can now prepare astrategic plan for our credit union," said Antill, noting the CUboard was to meet last week to develop a plan. She declined tospell out what steps the CU might take to offset the loss ofmembers and local jobs. As with Charter Oak in Groton, Conn.,Antill and members of senior management had taken part in hugelocal rallies with Gov. Bill Richardson trying to pump up the crowdduring one Clovis stop last May. "I want to congratulate the BRACcommissioners for doing a very good job-they just didn't rubberstamp the Pentagon requests but carefully analyzed the impact onthe local economy," concluded Antill. And in Connecticut, Stout ofCharter Oak noted that his CU "had a group of 25 of our employeesthat we lent to the Save Our Sub Base committee" with stafferswaving flags and standing on street corners greeting BRACcommissioners as they drove by on their way to hearing sites.Charter Oak also helped man telephone banks purchased more than ahundred "Save Our Submarine Base" T Shirts that were passed out toemployees and members. The "We Did It" slogan has now been placedover the "Save Our Sub Base" banners displayed on all Charter Oakbranches. "From the very beginning, we took a position of beingvery proactive in all of the efforts taking place to save the subbase," said Stout. "The base is something that everyone within ourfield of membership and indeed the entire region, identifies with."Apart from T-shirts and ads, Charter Oak, he said, also producedand distributed 10,000 bumper stickers with the CU receiving "a lotof recognition and praise" adding, "I must tell you that thecomments from our more than 75,000 members have been particularlygratifying. Another BRAC "winner" was the $42 million Sentinel FCUof Box Elder, S.D. serving the big Ellsworth Air Force Base nearRapid City and the state's second largest employer. "This is justfabulous news," exulted Roger Heacock, president/CEO of the $529million Black Hills FCU, after receiving word of the BRAC decision.Black Hills FCU, the state's largest, has also been an activeparticipant in a local campaign to protect the base, home of theB-1 bomber and providing a $250 million economic base with 5,000jobs at stake. Nancy Ellwein, president/CEO of Sentinel which hasits main office on the base, said "more than half of my staffattended that downtown meeting when BRAC was in town back in June."Sentinel with 7,500 members "had been prepared for an impact from aclosing," though last year the CU received a community charter andopened a branch in Winner, located in central South Dakota. Heacockof Black Hills said his staff "had a fairly good feeling" that thebase could be spared based "on some very compelling informationthat was presented about the dangers of keeping all your eggs inone basket" as a reminder of what occurred in World War II at PearlHarbor. Heacock was referring to the Pentagon's original plan toconsolidate B-1s at a Texas base but which would put militaryhardware at risk in the event of a terrorist attack. Joseph Boyle,director of planning, programming and special projects for NAFCU,lauded several CUs for "being ahead of the curve" in doing advanceplanning months - or even years ago - for BRAC realignments. Hecited Fort Knox FCU in Radcliff, Ky. and Randolph Brooks FCU inUniversal City, Tex. as two examples. Fort Knox, he said, hasalready sent advance information packets on the CU to militarypersonnel slated to relocate to Fort Knox. Meanwhile, RandolphBrooks built "a special rapport" years ago with training personnelslated to relocate from Pensacola, Fla. to Texas. Fort Knox is alsomaking liquidity adjustments in its portfolio to accommodate aninflux of home mortgages once troops relocate from overseas andelsewhere to the Kentucky army base, said Boyle. The CU is alsomaking sure accounts can be easily transferred without hassles.Still another CU enjoying a BRAC reprieve is Alaska USA FCU inAnchorage whose senior staff also took an active part in astatewide campaign to save Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks."In our meetings early on, we always focused not so much on thecommunity impact but on the military operations and tried topersuade the commissioners there were compelling reasons to keepthe base open," said Nancy Usera, senior vice president ofcorporate development at Alaska USA, which has five branches in theFairbanks area. Despite the latest BRAC decisions which came downduring the week of Aug. 22, Roland Arteaga, president of theDefense Credit Union Council, warned that the BRAC process stillhas a way to go with final recommendations going to President BushSept 8. Congress still has a chance to reject all or part of therecommendations though Washington insiders say that is unlikely.History shows that at this stage, said Arteaga, "60% of theclosures or realignments on the list are not likely to come off -very remote." So CUs on military bases "ought to start consideringnow-Do you want to buy the land under your building? Now may be agood opportunity to make that decision." [email protected]

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