The Army, through the taxpayers, the people of Pennsylvania and friends from other states, has invested $48 million, which has given the Army and the nation a superbly functioning historical reference facility with a fully trained staff.

The Army Heritage and Education Center answers thousands of queries from the public each year. Historians, military buffs, families doing genealogical research and school children come to AHEC.

Veterans have invested thousands of dollars to put memorial stones and bricks in place and plant trees honoring their units and comrades killed in battle.

AHEC contains the finest military library in the United States. It is adjunct to the Army War College. Should our future generals be deprived of this resource? What is a college without a library?

While considering throwing away $48 million at Carlisle, the Army is asking the taxpayers for $31 million to begin construction of an Army museum at Fort Belvoir, Va. They seem to think of Fort Belvoir as being in Washington, D.C., but it is not. Fort Belvoir is on congested I-95 outside the Beltway, 20 miles south of the attractions of Washington.

Why would a visitor to Washington drive to Belvoir when they can visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Mall with the Washington, Lincoln, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam memorials? The Smithsonian has seven great museums. There is also the White House, Congress and, indeed, page after page of attractions in Washington.

These sites can be reached by parking the car and using the Metro - Belvoir is not on the Metro.

Carlisle is serviced by three interstate highways - I-76, I-81 and I-83 - and U.S. 11 and 15. Carlisle is on a major tourism trail from historic Revolutionary War sites at Philadelphia, Valley Forge and Brandywine; through the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Hershey, historic Harrisburg, Civil War sites of Carlisle, Chambersburg, Gettysburg and Antietam; and through Colonial war sites in Western Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh.

It was from Carlisle in 1758 that British troops and American-born Rangers marched to seize the area that is now Pittsburgh.

The Army Times reports the estimated total cost for the planned Fort Belvoir Museum is $300 million. Adherents claim $50 million has been pledged. They do not say how much of that money is on hand. It is likely that major donors would honor their pledges for an Army museum no matter where it was built.

Should not history matter in location for the Army Heritage Center, indeed, for the Army museum?

Fort Belvoir was not an Army installation until World War I. Fort Belvoir was not so named until 1935. Belvoir is located on what was once a slave-holding plantation.

Carlisle Barracks dates from 1757. It was once the home of our first artillery school in 1977 and then trained dragoons and infantry. It was the cavalry school before and during the Civil War and the Indian Wars. Carlisle Barracks has been the military police school, the chaplain school, the judge advocate general school, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School and the Army medical field school.

The first motorized ambulance was developed here, and the first testing of helicopter evacuation of wounded occurred her in 1936.

The first aid bandage carried by 18 million to 20 million American soldiers in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars was developed at Carlisle. That Carlisle bandage saved thousands of lives.

Our nation is $14 trillion in debt. We have major problems: unemployment is 9 percent; people have lost their homes; and medical care is at risk. The Army should not be allowed to waste our money. We can and should fight this waste of our tax dollars.

Don't move AHEC from Carlisle. Keep it funded. An Army museum is a worthy idea, but the timing is wrong and the Belvoir setting and total cost worthy of another look. Congress and the Army should defer the $31 million for an Army museum at Belvoir.

Please write:

Sen. Pat Toomey

502 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Sen. Bob Casey

393 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Hon. John McHugh

Secretary of the Army

Room 3E700

110 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310-0101

Chief of Staff of the Army

Room 3E672

110 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310-0200

Gen. Robert Crane

Commanding General

Training and Doctrine Command

Fort Monroe, Va 23651

(his command oversees the War College and AHEC

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Robert W. Black is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served in Vietnam and with the 8th Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) in the Korean War. He was the founding president of the Airborne Ranger Association of the Korean War and was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1995. He is the author of "Rangers in Korea" and "Rangers in World War II" and is currently writing the definitive history of the Rangers over the past 400 years and a book on Rangers in the American Civil War. He lives in Carlisle.

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