The Army will cut one of the three Stryker combat brigades at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of an upcoming change in its force structure Army-wide, according to Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, who was informed of the action on Tuesday
The loss of the brigade will be accompanied by other cuts that would reduce the Army troop levels at JBLM from the current 31,000 to about 26,500 active-duty soldiers, Army officials told Heck.
“With the Iraq war over and the war in Afghanistan coming to a close next year, the U.S. Army will begin the process of returning to reduced troop levels. This is a necessary, natural and appropriation action,” Heck said in a statement today.
Prior to the start of these wars, what was then Fort Lewis served as the major testing ground for the eight-wheeled Strykers, which were fielded as a new generation of Army vehicles with multiple variants. The brigades, which were built around these vehicles, were repeatedly deployed to Iraq and then Afghanistan. The 4th Brigade 2nd Infantry Division, which deployed to Iraq and now has some soldiers serving in Afghanistan, is the Stryker brigade slated for the cut, according to Heck . That brigade has about 4,000 soldiers.
Heck said the loss of the brigade is unrelated to this year’s sequestration, which has resulted in cutbacks including furloughs for many civilian Defense Department workers.
The reductions come after a period of major expansion at JBLM, which is a joint Air Force and Army installation. During the post-9/11 period, the base added 19, 528 Army soldiers to reach this year’s total of more than 47,000 Air Force and Army active-duty personnel, according to statistics released in April.
The cutbacks are part of a broader downsizing of the Army that will reduce active-duty personnel from the current strength of about 540,000 soldiers to 490,000 by 2017.
In a meeting with community leaders in April, Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of the Army’s I Corps at JBLM, said the base could be spared any cuts — or could lose up to 8,000 soldiers as well as civilians who support these troops.
Responding to the news Tuesday, Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash., said JBLM will remain one of the premier military installations in America, and she was encouraged that the Army will add battalions to other brigade combat teams on the base.