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Army accelerates BCT overhaul by 2 years

Oct. 21, 2013 - 07:13PM   |  
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6 Guard BCTs set to reorganize

The Army National Guard is following the Army’s lead by reorganizing its brigade combat teams.
Six of the Guard’s 28 BCTs will be reorganized this fiscal year, with the others to follow through fiscal 2018, said Lt. Gen. William Ingram, director of the Army National Guard.
The goal is to have the Guard’s primary fighting formations match those in the active Army, Ingram has said.
Under the reorganization, each armored and infantry BCT will receive a third maneuver battalion. The Stryker brigades each have three maneuver battalions.
The BCTs will receive additional engineer and fires capabilities.
Once the reorganization is completed, each BCT will have about 4,500 soldiers, nearly 1,000 more than they do in their current configuration.
The Guard’s BCT reorganization will mirror that of the active Army, Ingram said. The plan is to take existing Guard units and align them with the BCTs, he said.
The six BCTs that will be reorganized this fiscal year are:
■56th BCT, 36th Infantry Division, Texas National Guard
■29th BCT, Hawaii National Guard
■76th BCT, Indiana National Guard
■79th BCT, California National Guard
■55th BCT, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard
■1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard
Plans call for six more BCTs to be reorganized in fiscal 2015, officials said. Another six will be converted in 2016, and five each will be done in fiscal 2017 and 2018.

The acceleration by two years of the drawdown of the active force will take place along with a massive organizational overhaul that will eliminate 10 additional brigade combat teams and reorganize the others.

The acceleration by two years of the drawdown of the active force will take place along with a massive organizational overhaul that will eliminate 10 additional brigade combat teams and reorganize the others.

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The acceleration by two years of the drawdown of the active force will take place along with a massive organizational overhaul that will eliminate 10 additional brigade combat teams and reorganize the others.

What was supposed to be a four-year process to cut the Army’s end strength by as many as 80,000 soldiers, inactivate 10 BCTs and reorganize the remaining BCTs will now be compressed into two years, officials said.

“The impact of sequestration in [fiscal 2013], coupled with the threat of continued sequestration levels of funding, is forcing the Army to implement significant reductions to end-strength, readiness and modernization in order to generate short-term cost savings,” Col. Daniel King, a spokesman for Forces Command, said in a statement. “We are accelerating the downsizing of the Army’s active component end-strength to 490K by FY15 instead of FY17. Additionally, we will maintain a certain number and mix of units at a higher level of readiness to meet contingency requirements.”

The BCT reorganization is one of the Army’s largest organizational changes since World War II. It not only will cut 10 BCTs from the Army but also result in the inactivation of almost 200 smaller units across the force. This includes as many as 26,600 soldiers from engineer and support units who will be reorganized to form new engineer battalions inside each remaining BCT.

The 10 BCTs scheduled for inactivation are:

■4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas

■3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox, Ky.

■4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

■4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

■4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

■3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas

■3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

■3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

■4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

■2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

In addition to these 10 BCTs, the Army has inactivated two BCTs in Europe — the 170th and 172nd.

This will leave the Army with 12 armored BCTs, 14 infantry BCTs and seven Stryker brigades, a critical consideration as the Army determined which BCTs should be cut.

In the future, another BCT, this one overseas, will be identified for inactivation, officials have said, bringing the final number of BCTs to 32.

The 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th BCT, which redeployed from Afghanistan in July, cased its colors Oct. 17.

“This is an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of the 4th Brigade Combat Team,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division. “They stood up eight years ago, and in a period of eight years deployed and fought four different times; three times in Iraq, once in Afghanistan.”

Also inactivated Oct. 17 were the brigade’s Special Troops Battalion, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and the 27th Brigade Support Battalion, said Lt. Col. Kirk Luedeke, the division spokesman.

The Oct. 17 inactivation ceremony at Fort Hood marked “the first step in the transformation of the division,” Ierardi said.

“Many of the soldiers and at least three of the battalions you saw here will continue to serve in the division,” he said.

The 4th BCT’s 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, will become part of the division’s 3rd BCT, while 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, will become part of 1st Brigade, Luedeke said.

The reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition squadron, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, will be converted into a combined-arms battalion and will be aligned with 2nd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Luedeke said.

“A lot of effort has been made to minimize the turbulence and impact on soldiers and their families,” Luedeke said.

The 1st Infantry Division, which has two BCTs slated for inactivation, will inactivate its 3rd BCT in 2014, said Maj. Gen. Paul Funk, the division commander.

The BCT is deployed to Afghanistan, and the inactivation process will begin after the soldiers come home, Funk said.

The division’s 4th BCT is coming out of reset and it is scheduled to be regionally aligned with Africa Command beginning in June, Funk said. The brigade will replace the division’s 2nd BCT, which has been aligned with AFRICOM for about a year. The 4th BCT will be inactivated in fiscal 2015, after completing the regional alignment rotation, Funk said.

In addition to cutting 10 BCTs, 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 each have three maneuver battalions, and the BCTs stationed outside the continental U.S. — four in all — will remain at two maneuver battalions for now, mostly as a way to save on military construction costs, officials said.

The move enables the Army to retain 95 of its 98 combat battalions across the BCTs while eliminating headquarters and staff elements.

The BCTs will receive additional engineer and fires capabilities.

Infantry and Stryker BCTs now have one engineer company, while armored BCTs have two, officials have said.

Under the reorganization, the brigade support troops battalion in each BCT will be converted into a brigade engineer battalion with gap-crossing and breaching capabilities, as well as route-clearance assets, officials said.

This would expand the number of engineers in each brigade from about 120 in the infantry and Stryker BCTs and about 200 in the armored BCTs to more than 300 engineers in all.

The BCTs also will have increased fires capability by going from a two-by-eight-gun fires battalion to a three-by-six. This gives the brigades two additional guns and one additional battery to support the three maneuver battalions.

Once the reorganization is completed, each BCT will have about 4,500 soldiers, nearly 1,000 more than they do in their current configuration.

Most soldiers from the 10 BCTs slated for inactivation likely will be absorbed into the remaining — and growing — BCTs. It also is likely, on an installation as large as Fort Bragg or Fort Hood, for example, for most soldiers to be moved into new units without a permanent change of station.

In all, the BCT cuts will result in the loss of about 17,700 positions, which are counted as part of the 80,000 end strength cut toward which the Army is working.

The inactivation of the two BCTs and several smaller enabler units in Europe represent a reduction of about 11,700 slots.

The Army’s plan to cut 80,000 soldiers, from a wartime high of about 570,000, is roughly a 14 percent reduction of the force.

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