FORT RILEY, Kan. -- A brigade at Fort Riley will be inactivated as the Army moves forward with plans to cut the size of the service by 80,000.
The U.S. Army is slashing the number of combat brigades from 45 to 33, and shifting thousands of soldiers out of installations around the country.
Officials say the massive restructuring plans would eliminate brigades at 10 Army posts in the U.S. by 2017, including Fort Riley in Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, New York, and Washington in addition to two in Europe. The Army will also cut thousands of other jobs across the service, including soldiers in units that support the brigades.
The Army is being reduced from a high of about 570,000 during the Iraq war to 490,000.
Fort Riley officials and community leaders pleaded their case with the Army back in April, stressing the negative impact downsizing would have on the region in the hopes that the home of the Army's oldest division would not have to face cuts.
Officials told Department of the Army staff members about the massive investment that places like Junction City and Manhattan have made at all levels to support Fort Riley. Millions have been spent on housing, infrastructure, education and healthcare.
Officials stressed that losing soldiers would take a big toll on the entire area.
The restructuring includes the inactivation of two 1st Infantry Division brigade combat teams- the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, located at Fort Riley, and the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, located at Fort Knox, Ky., and currently deployed to Afghanistan.
The Big Red One's other two brigade combat teams will be reorganized in the wake of the decision.
"It’s my understanding that half of the soldiers from that brigade will be reassigned to units staying on Fort Riley so that at the end of the next 3-4 years, Fort Riley will lose about 1700 soldiers. Not a full brigade," said John Armbrust, Executive Director of the Governor's Military Council.
The two brigades set for reorganization are the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, both located at Fort Riley. As part of the reorganization, each brigade will receive a third maneuver battalion and see an increase in its engineer and artillery capabilities, Fort Riley said in a press release Tuesday.
The 4th Brigade was established at Fort Riley when the 1st Infantry Division returned to Kansas in 2006 after a decade in Germany. The return prompted the Pentagon to spend nearly $2 billion in new construction at Fort Riley to accommodate the influx of soldiers, including new barracks, training areas and hospital.
"We’re disappointed obviously that there’s a reduction. We also appreciate that the Army is looking at Fort Riley in the future and they’re re-investing soldiers back into the fort itself. In fact, Fort Riley is losing, percentage wise, less percent than the Army is reducing overall," Armbrust added. "What we'll do now is asses what this 1700 will do to the communities and the state. We really have no detailed information at this point in time."
"I think that a lot of the reductions that are now being made are to take down those brigades that were added to grow the Army during the period when the Army had to grow due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he told WIBW.
Major General Paul Funk, the commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division, said in a statement: “This force structure ensures the 1st Infantry Division remains on point for our nation well into the future and ensures the Army’s adaptability and flexibility. I can assure you that the entire team here is committed to mitigating – as much as humanly possible – the impact this announcement and its implementation will have on our Soldiers, our Families and our communities.”
Officials said the reductions in Kansas don't include any loss of soldiers at Fort Leavenworth, home of the Command and General Staff College and two military prisons.