Army officially delays JBER force cut
The U.S. Army has officially announced that it will delay the long-dreaded reduction of 2,600 soldiers from the 4-25 Infantry Brigade Combat Team stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Alaska’s Congressional delegation hailed the delay as a win for both national security and for Alaska, which draws substantial economic benefit from troops and their families.
Army officials first announced plans to cut 2,600 soldiers from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division, also known as the 4-25, last July as part of an Army-wide cut of 40,000 troops. The full division stationed in Alaska is about 4,000 troops.
All three members of the Alaska Congressional delegation decried the withdrawal as short sighted and potentially dangerous in the face of chilly Russian-U.S. foreign relations and other political issues in the Pacific Rim and Arctic.
“This is good news for Alaska — from the moment the Army proposed to eliminate the 4-25 Airborne Brigade I knew that it was shortsighted and the direction of world events would ultimately prove that,” said Senator Murkowski in a release. “Whether measured by North Korea's provocative actions this month, our discomfort with Russia's military path, the need for troop strength to support the strategic balance to the Pacific, or emerging challenges in the Arctic, maintaining Army strength in Alaska right now is the right answer.”
Rep. Don Young praised the delay, but said Alaskans should not get too excited until the possibility of a troop withdrawal is completely off the table.
“While today’s announcement comes as great news for Alaska and the nation, we must not rest on our laurels,” said Young in a release. “Instead, we must continue to fight to ensure this reduction is overturned so JBER’s 4-25 can continue its status as the only airborne brigade in the Pacific.”
The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley’s public announcement that he wants to delay proposed force reductions at least a year in testimony to a Senate committee Feb. 24.
The revelation came as Murkowski questioned Milley during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing.
Local leaders had worried the troop reduction would further damage Anchorage’s economy, already in a tenuous situation as rock-bottom oil prices have led to multi-billion dollar state budget deficits and growing job losses in the oil and gas industry.
The 4-25 also just completed a training exercise at Fort Polk in Louisiana with a full Airborne Task Force of nearly 1,600 troops to show the value of the full force, according to a U.S. Army Alaska press release.
U.S. Army Alaska officials asked branch leaders to consider training with the full force last year after the Army directed the 4-25 to downsize to an Airborne Task Force of 1,046 soldiers as part of the effort to restructure to a smaller, more agile force, the release states.
The release stated that the exercise at Fort Polk validated the 4-25 as “the only U.S. airborne unit in the Pacific region capable of performing forcible entry operations.”
DJ Summers can be reached at [email protected]