Fort, Flint Hills will adapt to change

Post loses a brigade; area loses neighbors

By The Mercury

Tuesday’s announcement that the Army is de-activating the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division is disappointing but not surprising. Nor, given the choices the Pentagon had, is this particular cutback unfair, though fairness must be a secondary concern to the needs of the Army and the national defense.

As a result of the cutbacks announced by Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, the post, which now has about 18,000 troops, will have about 15,500. Although a brigade normally has at least 3,500 troops, the troop loss will be smaller because many members of the 4th Brigade will be transferred to battalions to be assigned to the remaining brigades to bolster their effectiveness.

Fort Riley will feel the loss of 2,500 soldiers, many of whom have families. Manhattan, Junction City and the other communities that support and benefit from the post also will feel the loss. We’ll lose neighbors, our schools will lose students, our religious congregations will lose members and, of course, businesses will lose customers.

It’s not much consolation, but the same thing is happening to America’s other major Army posts: Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo., Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Drum, N.Y., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. All are losing brigades. Also, two brigades in Germany are being eliminated.

Trimming the Army from 45 brigades to 33 is part of a restructuring exercise that will reduce the Army by about 80,000 soldiers, from the 570,000 who served during the height of the Iraq war to 490,000.

Gov. Sam Brownback, understandably disappointed in the scheduled cutbacks at Fort Riley, responded positively. Perhaps referring to the post’s population growth and the $2 billion the Pentagon invested in housing, a new hospital and other facilities, the governor said, “A lot of things have been going on in the positive at Fort Riley in the last decade. We’re going to do everything we can to support the fort.”

One trait military personnel and communities such as Manhattan share is the ability to adapt to new circumstances — in situations like this, to roll with the punches. The BRAC era in the 1990s took a much greater toll on the fort and its surrounding communities, and served as a reminder of the importance both of maintaining good relations with the post and of being prepared for any contingency.

We’ll adjust to the new reality, maintain our pride in and support of Fort Riley and continue to offer the troops stationed there a warm welcome to Manhattan and the Flint Hills.

When the time comes and the Army needs to grow again, we’ll be ready.

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