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Fort needs support as brigades deactivate

By Kristina Jackson

The U.S. Army community extends beyond the gates of Fort Riley, according to Maj. Gen. Paul Funk, commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division.

Funk spoke at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Manhattan Thursday, and in addition to emphasizing the hard-working nature of his troops and the importance of community support, he also discussed the number of troops who soon would be coming home from deployment.

“This community does such a tremendous job of taking care of the military,” Funk said.

As troops begin to return from deployments, Funk said, they’ll need the community support more than ever before.

“It’s vital to our defense that these men and women remain strong,” he said.

Two brigades will be deactivating in the next two to three years.

One likely will be realigned within existing 1st Infantry Division units and continue to train at Fort Riley, Funk said, but some will need help finding employment and transitioning out of the military.

Funk said the emphasis on transition is important to him, as the division will lose around 1,200 soldiers overall.

As part of a agreement with K-State, the university is looking at Fort Riley programs and helping to determine how the school can best help soldiers fit back to civilian life.

Until then, 1st Infantry Division troops can be found all over the world.

Brigades from Fort Riley will be deploying to Kuwait, Guinea, Chad and Djibouti. Others should be returning from Afghanistan next year.

“We owe them an organized way in which to draw down,” Funk said.

As more soldiers return to the post, Funk said he hopes the community will continue to support them, despite some sacrifices — like area residents struggling to sleep during an evening of training exercises.

“Those sounds you’re hearing at night are the sounds of freedom,” he said. “These kids are trying to be the greatest army in the world.”

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