Three Army units were inactivated this afternoon at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The move is a result of changing priorities and fiscal belt-tightening at the federal level.
The 56th Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Supply Company and the 240th Survey and Design Detachment have fought in every single conflict since World War Two. All three Army units had their colors cased Thursday afternoon — rendering them out of service until they’re needed again.
Battalion commander George Walter says seeing the units, and their rich histories, get shelved is bittersweet. But he also says it’s a necessity.
“These changes are designed to allow our Army to retain its adaptability and flexibility in order to address future and unknown challenges,” Walter says. “As soldiers we know it’s not a matter of if we go to war next, but when we’ll go to war next.”
Army units come and go as the nation’s conflicts change, but these three are being inactivated due to budget cuts.
And calling the units ‘inactivated’ doesn’t mean soldiers will lose their jobs. Walter says most will be reshuffled internally.
“Most of the great soldiers of the 84th, 56th and 240th, who’ve elected — through their individual career paths — to continue serving, will be reassigned both within Alaska and across our great Army,” Walter says.
At a national level the Army is reducing its active force by about 15 percent, or 80,000 soldiers. In Alaska, the reduction numbers about 400, according to Army-Alaska media chief John Pennell.
“JBER will lose roughly 800, but there will be a plus-up of some at Ft. Wainwright,” Pennell says. JBER is currently home to about 7,500 active duty Army personnel.
The cuts are small compared to what some other Army posts are experiencing. Some cuts number in the thousands, Pennell says.
“We figure we’re doing pretty well in Alaska getting by with the small number of cuts that we’ll be taking. It shows the importance of Alaska strategically, militarily, and the value that the Army puts on Alaska,” Pennell says.
One more Army unit is slated for inactivation this month. The seven-ninety-third military police battalion will stand down after more than seventy years of service. The unit was a part of the Red Ball Express during World War II, an effort that supplied the Allied Forces in Europe from the beach at Normandy.