Kansas won an economic and symbolic victory Wednesday with confirmation that the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division - the Big Red One - will return to Fort Riley, officials said.
State officials were expecting the move after it was recommended by the Pentagon in May, but treated Wednesday's announcement as cause for fresh celebration.
"With this announcement today, the Army has made it clear what we have known all along: that Fort Riley is truly the crown jewel of the United States Army," said U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Lawrence Republican whose district extends to the fort near Junction City.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he anxiously awaited the return from Germany of the oldest continuously serving division in the Army.
"I have placed the Army flag next to the Kansas and American flags outside my Washington office. It will be there ready, holding the place for the division flag when it returns home to Kansas," Roberts said.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius called the announcement "great news" and said the state "will do everything possible to support the men and women of the military and their families, and to honor their service to our nation."
The notification also emphasized the increases in personnel and payroll that Kansas has received during the current round of base realignments and closures.
All of Kansas' major military installations - Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, McConnell Air Force Base and Forbes Field - made gains. The biggest loss will be the closure of the Kansas Army Ammunition plant in Parsons, a plant with about 160 employees.
"We did very well," said John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor's Strategic Military Planning Commission.
"We were seventh in the number of people added out of all 50 states, and fourth in payroll added."
Dan Stanley, a former Kansas official who now is an assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon, said Kansas did better than most.
"There were several states that were proportionately larger gainers, and Kansas was one of them," Stanley said.
But the return of the Big Red One might be the biggest gain of all.
The headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division and its 4,000 soldiers was transferred to Germany in 1995 while the 1st Brigade remained at Fort Riley.
The move shocked Kansans at the time.
"It hurt," said Stanley, who was working for then-U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., at the time. "The (headquarters) flag was part of that community's identity."
The movement of the headquarters back to Fort Riley reflects the repositioning of troops in Europe, and the fact that the post has excellent training facilities and little encroachment from residential development that has plagued other military communities, officials said.
"This should be a pretty big shot in the arm for Junction City and Fort Riley," Stanley said
In addition to the soldiers from the Big Red One, Fort Riley was already receiving a new brigade that was expected to bring an additional 3,400 soldiers.
In total, upwards of 33,000 soldiers, family members, civilian and ancillary workers will be moving into the Junction City area by the end of the decade, officials said. Such an increase would double the population of Geary County, the home of Junction City.
"What we were assuming and hoping for, is happening," Armbrust said.
He said the state's military planning commission, headed by Lt. Gov. John Moore, has been preparing for months for the increase in military personnel to the state.
The movement of additional soldiers to Fort Riley is expected to start after October, the beginning of the federal fiscal year.
Fort Riley now has about 11,540 soldiers, in addition to 12,300 family members and 5,540 civilian employees. The post adds $870 million to the state's economy, officials estimate.