Soldiers with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division train in July 2013 in Afghanistan. The BCT, based at Fort Knox, Ky., is slated to inactivate this July. (1st Lt. Charles Morgan/Army)
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The Army has inactivated three brigade combat teams this fiscal year, and has seven more to go, as it works toward an end-strength of 490,000 soldiers by the end of 2015.
In all, 10 BCTs will be cut this year and next, and the Army is “on target” to meet its restructure requirements, said Col. Daniel King, a spokesman for Forces Command. It takes anywhere from six to 10 months to inactivate a BCT, King said.
“This process is the most challenging on installations that don’t include multiple, similar units, where we can cross-level [soldiers],” King said. “On our large installations ... we can transfer soldiers from one unit to another, usually without having to move families.”
In addition to the BCT cuts, the Army will reorganize most of its remaining BCTs by adding a third maneuver battalion to its armored and infantry brigades. The Army’s Stryker brigades already have three maneuver battalions each.
Even deeper manpower cuts to the Army are expected after 2015; projections call for the Army to drop to 450,000 or even 420,000 soldiers.
Here’s a look at the status of the 10 inactivating BCTs:
4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, was inactivated in October. Soldiers transitioned to 1st, 2nd and 3rd BCTs within the 1st Cavalry Division, all at Fort Hood.
4th Stryker BCT, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., was inactivated in March. Soldiers transferred to 3rd SBCT, 2nd Infantry on the same post.
4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., inactivated in April. Soldiers transferred to the division’s 1st and 3rd BCTs. Soldiers were not required to move off Fort Campbell.
4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., will inactivate in June. Soldiers will be moved to the 82nd Airborne’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd BCTs.
3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Knox, Ky., will inactivate in July. The brigade, the only BCT on Fort Knox, returned from Afghanistan in March. It will case its colors May 21, said Col. Bill Ostlund, the brigade commander.
About 65 percent of the brigade’s equipment has been redistributed across the Army, and about 20 percent of its soldiers have been reassigned, he said. The rest of the brigade will move on — either to other installations, the reserve component or into civilian life — over the next six months, Ostlund said.
He estimates about 75 percent of the brigade’s 3,500 soldiers will be moved or reassigned to other installations. The rest will remain in the Fort Knox area, either as retirees or in units.
Fort Knox will have to reassess the services it provides on post, said Col. T.J. Edward, garrison commander. The post will go from eight schools to four, for example.
3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division will inactivate in the fall. Soldiers in this Fort Drum, N.Y.-based brigade will transfer to the division’s 1st and 2nd BCTs.
2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., will inactivate in winter 2015. Soldiers will transfer to the 1st and 4th BCTs of the 3rd Infantry Division.
2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., will inactivate in winter 2015. Soldiers will be reassigned to the division’s 4th BCT and 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd SBCTs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This means some soldiers will have to be moved from Colorado to Washington.
3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, will inactivate in spring 2015. Soldiers will be moved to the 2nd and 4th BCTs of the 1st Armored Division, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood.
4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., will inactivate in summer 2015. Soldiers will be reassigned to the division’s 1st and 2nd BCTs and 2nd BCT, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. This requires some soldiers to move from Kansas to Kentucky.
The Army is collecting data at 30 installations that could lose more than 10,000 soldiers when the service drops to 450,000 or 420,000 soldiers, said Brig. Gen. Roger Cloutier, director of force management for the Army, as the service studies the force structure and mix.
The intent is to look at the socioeconomic impact of any potential cuts to each installation and its surrounding communities, he said.
The annual Total Army Analysis is ongoing now, as the Army looks at a total force of 980,000 soldiers — 450,000 in the active Army, 335,000 in the Army National Guard, and 195,000 in the Army Reserve — by fiscal year 2017.
The analysis also is looking at the possibility of an Army that has 920,000 soldiers; 420,000 soldiers in the active Army, 315,000 in the Army Guard, and 185,000 in the Reserve.
“We’ve got to make sure if we draw down a capability in the active component that we either build it or it resides in the reserve component, and we’ve got to make sure we balance that across the total force,” Cloutier said.
Cloutier said he expects to have recommendations to submit to senior Army leaders in late summer.
The Army is working to preserve as much of its units’ heraldry and lineage as possible, according to the experts at the Army Center of Military History.
“There’s really no avoiding the fact a significant number of units will be inactivated,” said Ned Bedessem, a historian in the force structure and unit history branch at the Army Center of Military History. “But we have rules of engagement for how lineages will be preserved in the Army.”
One key rule calls for the service to minimize reflagging so the Army can retain unit designations and their unique histories.
“The reflagging process is highly disruptive for soldiers in that unit,” Bedessem said. “They form an emotional attachment to the unit.”
That’s why most of the battalions in the inactivating brigades will keep their unit designations even after they’re assigned to a different brigade, Bedessem said.
For example, when 4th BCT, 82nd Airborne is inactivated, its 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment will be transferred to the division’s 3rd BCT. It will remain 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, even though the other two maneuver battalions in the brigade carry the 505th Infantry Regiment designation, Bedessem said.
The Army also will preserve the 506th Infantry Regiment, the revered “Band of Brothers” regiment from World War II. When 4th BCT, 101st Airborne inactivates, its maneuver battalions will be assigned to other brigades in the division while keeping their current designations, Bedessem said.
The 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry will become part of 1st BCT, 101st Airborne, while 2nd Battalion will go to 3rd BCT, he said.