End is near for 197th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning
By Ben Wright | Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer | Published: December 11, 2013
A reduction in basic training at Fort Benning will force the 197th Infantry Brigade to discontinue operations at the post.
As part of Army restructuring announced in April, battalions of the unit will be assumed by the 316th Cavalry Brigade during a Thursday ceremony at Doughboy Stadium.
The move is expected to save the Army an estimated $1.6 million during fiscal year 2014, which started Oct. 1, said Elsie Jackson, a public affairs spokeswoman at Fort Benning. Reorganization of the fighting force is part of a plan to reduce soldiers to 490,000 from 562,000 troops by fiscal year 2020.
Only a few military and civilian positions have been impacted by the change. Many moved to other positions on post, while some civilian employees took advantage of Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Programs.
Some reorganization of training units started in April when 3rd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 192nd Infantry Brigade was discontinued.
In June, the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, 192nd Infantry Brigade was reorganized under the 194th Armor Brigade. The 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment also was reorganized under the armor brigade. The 30th Adjutant General Battalion, the unit responsible for receiving new recruits, moved under the 194th Armor Brigade.
None of the cuts is related to sequestration that went into effect March 1. With the war’s end in Iraq and troops’ draw down in Afghanistan, fewer soldiers will be trained at Fort Benning. Training at Fort Benning has dropped by about 23 percent since peaking in 2010.
Compared with last year, basic trainees on the post have dropped from 36,000 in fiscal year 2013 to a projection of 33,000 for this fiscal year. “Of course that number could fluctuate some but not that much,” Jackson said.
The 197th dates back to before World War II. In 1962, elements of the 99th Reconnaissance Troop were restored. Thirty years earlier, the unit had been formed by consolidating 99th Infantry Division, the 197th and 198th Infantry Brigades.
In September 1962, the 197th was activated at Fort Benning with a brigade of 3,500 men to support training at the Infantry Center. The brigade was restructured in 1973 as a strategic force.
The mission of the unit changed from not only supporting the Infantry School, but also to specialize in desert, jungle and urban warfare.
Retired Lt. Gen. Carmen Cavezza, a former commander at Fort Benning, was commander of the 197th in the early ’80s at Kelley Hill.
“When I took it over, it was training but we did some tactical things,” Cavezza said. “We were the first unit to go to the National Training Center. They used us as a test brigade.”
In 1991, the 197th Brigade was attached as the 3rd Brigade to the 24th Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga., to help expel Iraqi soldiers from occupying Kuwait.
“By the Gulf War, it was ready to go,” Cavezza said.
After returning from the war, the 197th was inactivated and officially reactivated as the 3rd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division.
The current 197th Brigade was created by redesignating the 29th Infantry Regiment.