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2 Fort Bragg battalions deactivated as part of downsizing in post-Afghanistan military

The 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment traces its history to 1917. But throughout the years, parts or all of the unit have been deactivated between major conflicts.

Earlier this month, officials on Fort Bragg once again cased the flags of a 321st battalion.

With the war in Afghanistan winding down and the Army undergoing a transformation into a smaller, more varied force, two of the three 321st battalions will be shuttered by summer, officials said.

The 1st Battalion, 321st was the first to deactivate during a small ceremony on Stang Field on Fort Bragg.

The unit had been the Army's last airborne 155mm artillery battalion.

Its sister unit, the 2nd Battalion of the 321st, will be deactivated later this year, officials said. The remaining 321st unit, 3rd Battalion, will undergo a different transformation as that unit shifts from howitzers to the HiMARs weapons system.

The 1st Battalion, 321st deactivated over two ceremonies March 14.

In the first, officials passed the regimental colors - the representation of the unit's history - to 3rd Battalion for safekeeping.

In a second ceremony, unit leadership covered the battalion's flag. Both ceremonies were symbolic but important, officials said.

"It's a proud lineage. It's kind of bittersweet," said Lt. Col. Kareem Montague, the last commander of 1st Battalion. "It's the best job I ever had.

"Transitions are part of the Army, and it's a healthy part of the Army," he added.

Montague and Command Sgt. Maj. William Bauer traded compliments and friendly jokes during the ceremonies. While Montague will move on to another position, Bauer soon will retire from the military.

Many veterans of the battalion attended the ceremonies, including the regiment's honorary sergeant major, Tony Guerrero.

Guerrero served with 1st and 2nd battalions in Vietnam and said he was proud to be part of the ceremonies.

"It's a great honor," he said. "I can't top it."

Guerrero has seen the unit go away before.

The regiment fought for four straight years in Vietnam, he said, but was deactivated after the war. The colors stayed in storage for more than a decade until the unit was reactivated.

Montague said he is confident the unit will fight again and said he hopes he will be there when the flag is once again unfurled.

"I want to be able to come and watch," he said.

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