Col. Edward T. Bohnemann, commander, and Command Sgt. Major Michael W. Boom, senior enlisted adviser of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, case the colors May 31 in Grafenwoehr, Germany. (U.S. Army Europe)
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The 172nd Brigade Combat Team has cased its colors, marking one of the final steps in a complex, two-year process that cut in half the number of BCTs stationed in Europe.
The 172nd is the second of two BCTs to be cut from U.S. Army Europe, and 250 soldiers from the brigade remain in Germany as the unit prepares for its inactivation in October. The unit follows the 170th BCT, which was inactivated last October.
In all, the Army will have moved more than 8,000 soldiers and their families and accounted for thousands of pieces of equipment.
The plan to cut the number of Europe-based BCTs from four to two was announced in early 2012, while the 172nd and 170th were deployed to Afghanistan. With the inactivation of the two brigades and cuts of about 2,500 soldiers from smaller units, U.S. Army Europe will lose about 10,000 soldiers, leaving it with a force of about 30,000.
The 172nd BCT’s 4,300 soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in July 2011 and returned to Germany’s Schweinfurt and Grafenwoehr in June 2012, said Col. Edward Bohnemann, the brigade commander. The unit found out about its inactivation about three months before the end of its tour, he said.
“We had the luxury of a little more time,” he said, comparing his brigade with the 170th’s shorter inactivation timeline.
Bohnemann, who has commanded the 172nd since January 2011, said the “vast majority” of his soldiers and their 12,500 family members were assigned to the U.S. He estimates 5 percent to 10 percent were able to stay in Europe.
Bohnemann said the brigade’s 250 soldiers remaining in Germany will move to their next assignments or leave the Army this summer.
Bohnemann credits the 170th for sharing lessons learned from its inactivation.
“It was a very smooth and seamless process,” he said.
In the midst of moving and drawing down, the 172nd continued to support missions across Europe, Bohnemann said. His soldiers participated in theater engagements with France, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria.
The brigade also worked to get its soldiers to the professional military education courses they needed, he said.
Bohnemann and his soldiers cased the brigade’s colors May 31 during a ceremony at Grafenwoehr.
The occasion was bittersweet, he said, adding soldiers have a “strong bond with your colors.”
“Our soldiers did great in a remote but kinetic region [in Afghanistan]. They did a fantastic job,” Bohnemann said. “Casing the colors was tough to see, but every mission given to the brigade we did to standard, and this is just one more of those missions.”
The 170th and 172nd brigades are the first cuts in the Army’s plan to eliminate at least eight of its 45 BCTs and shrink the active-duty force to about 490,000 soldiers — a reduction of about 80,000 troops — over the next five years.
Announcements about the other six BCTs to be cut — and potentially as many as five more if the Army chooses to redesign its remaining formations — are expected this month.