JBER to lose troops

Number of soldiers in state will drop by 373


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Paratroopers in the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division simulate a jump from a C-17 on JBER on July 18, 2013. JBER will lose 780 soldiers by the end of 2015 due to restructuring by the Army.

STAR FILE PHOTO/MIKE NESPER

By the end of 2015, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will be a little emptier.

That’s when the last of 780 Army soldiers depart for other assignments, retirement or early retirement.

But don’t worry, while JBER will be losing manpower, Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks will gain 367 soldiers.

All total, Alaska will lose 373 soldiers from current authorization levels.

JBER numbers will reduce to 4,598 and Fort Wainwright will grow to 6,198.

Nationwide, 80,000 soldier positions will be reduced.

The U.S. Army is in midst of a massive restructuring effort, brought about by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“The Army will take those numbers and start slicing the pie,” said Lt. Col. Alan Brown, JBER chief of public affairs.

Still, Alaska fared well under the cuts.

“Across the Army you have installations that are going to lose an entire combat brigade, and that’s anywhere between 3,000-4,000 soldiers,” he said.

Altogether, 12 combat brigades across the country will be eliminated, he said.

JBER will lose the 2nd Engineer Brigade headquarters, the 4/25th IBCT Troops Battalion and the 793rd Military Police Battalion.

The 6th Engineer Battalion will convert to a Brigade Engineer Battalion.

Brown stressed that the Army isn’t eliminating so much as restructuring.

“It is not handing out pink slips,” he said. “A lot of soldiers will essentially, when their time is up, move to new assignments.”

Others, he said, might choose to not relist or retire early.

“We’re losing a few soldiers but this decrease is not going to affect our mission capability,” Brown said.

The Army views the reductions as positive, despite modest community losses.

“We certainly hope that it’s not going to have any significant economic impact,” Brown said.

Sen. Mark Begich also viewed the reductions favorably.

“Other states have seen far greater cut backs to their forces — ten times more reductions than Alaska troops,” he said in a recent press release. “But what is more important is the commitment we have received from the military to bring new missions to Alaska and strengthen our force here in the long term.”

The Army has begun the process of informing soldiers and families impacted by the reduction.

Brown expects reactions will be varied.

“We are all soldiers and when it comes down to it,” he said, “we take our orders and drive on and try to be as successful as we can wherever the Army wants us to be.”

At this time, Brown isn’t aware of any additional Alaska military cuts.

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