Army Cuts Will Be Small For Alaska Military

Alaska will lose about 400 soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska operations and the announcement is being portrayed as good news from military officials in the state.

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JBER Spokesman John Pennell says Anchorage operations will lose 780 positions but Fort Wainwright will gain 367 for a net loss of around 375 soldiers by the end of 2015.

Pennell says the positions will largely come from cutting smaller units within the 2nd engineer brigade.

“Others will move to different headquarters within U.S. Army Alaska. For instance, the 6th Engineer Battalion, they’re an airborne qualified Engineer Battalion,” Pennell said. “They will move to the 425th airborne brigade combat team and become an engineer battalion within that brigade.”

The cuts were not a surprise; they are part of the 80,000 soldier draw down called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011. But Pennell says if you consider losses in other parts of the nation, Kentucky’s Fort Knox will lose 3800 to 4000 soldiers, an entire brigade combat team, the small cut to Alaska’s military positions is good news. Pennell says the Army values Alaska’s strategic position.

“Not only for the Arctic but also for the entire Pacific theater,” Pennell said. “And so, our two brigade combat teams, one here in Anchorage, the airborne team and one in Fairbanks, the Stryker Brigade team, they are valuable assets in a very strategically valuable location.”

Pennell also stressed that the smaller loss here is a reflection of the strong community support that Alaskans have always shown for the military.

He says mostly positions will not be re-filled as soldiers rotate out or retire. He says there will be some that will have their tours shortened but that will be on a case by case basis.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori