Cuts to 4-25 reversed, but 1,500 to deploy to Afghanistan

About 500 troops from the 4-25th Airborne Brigade participating in exercise Talisman Saber in the South Pacific in July of 2015. Photo: Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media.

It’s official: The Army has decided to keep the 4-25th brigade combat team intact at Joint Base Elmendof-Richardson in Anchorage.

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Friday’s announcement reverses a 2015 decision to substantially reduce the 5,000-soldier unit. The move comes as the Trump Administration has pushed for increased military spending and higher troop levels, though local and congressional leaders have been working to stave off the cuts since they were first announced.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan said the move shows the Pentagon recognizes the security challenges in the Arctic and Asia-Pacific. Sullivan found out about the decision at a Wounded Warrior event at the White House.

“And General Milley was there, and I always take the opportunity to speak to General Milley, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army,” Sullivan said during an interview. “He told me.”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski issued a statement calling it a victory for the state and for national security. Praise also came from the governor’s office, and from Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who’s administration set up a task force in 2015 to study the 4-25’s economic impact and the potential repercussions from cuts.

Along with the announcement came news that the Army will send 1,500 soldiers from the 4-25 to Afghanistan. John Pennel is a spokesperson for the Army in Alaska, and said the timeline for the deployment is not yet finalized, but will happen in the second half of the year.

“We know it’s going to be later on this year, and some time after June,” Pennel said, referring to when the unit is expected to finish exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk.

The 4-25 is an infantry unit able to conduct airborne operations. But the soldiers deployed will reflect a broader set of specialties.

“They will take a variety of occupational specialties, to include obviously infantry, but also support and field artillery, and cavalry,” Pennel said. “It’ll be kind of a slice from across the brigade.”

Pennel didn’t yet know where in Afghanistan the soldiers will be based during their deployment.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska.

@ZachHughesAK About Zachariah

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