Support our mission

ARLINGTON, Va. — The 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, will see a boost of 2,000 soldiers when, in two years, it becomes one of the Army’s restructured combat brigades.

In addition to two infantry battalions, the brigade will see an increase of military intelligence and signal personnel, engineers, and a support battalion, said Army officials who briefed reporters Friday on the next round of decisions regarding force structure basing for new Brigade Combat Team (Units of Action), or BCT(UA).

Operational requirements on the already stressed Army are forcing leaders to rapidly create and position these new units, which will be lighter, more agile and more rapidly deployable than the current brigades, said Brig. Gen. David Ralston, the Army’s operations director of force management.

The Army is “taking a risk” of creating four of the units at four stateside installations next year in advance of looming decisions of possible changes to be made during the next Base Realignment and Closure process in 2005.

“We’re taking a risk based on our needs, and if BRAC makes changes, the units might have to move again,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Rodney.

Here are the following stateside installations where newly restructured BCT(UA)s will move in fiscal 2005:• A heavy unit will be formed at Fort Hood, Texas• An infantry unit will be formed at Fort Polk, La.• An infantry unit will be formed at Fort Richardson, Alaska• The 2nd Cavalry Regiment will move from Fort Polk to Fort Lewis and become the 4th Stryker BCT

Then, in fiscal 2006, six more BCT(UA)s will be formed:• A heavy unit will be formed at Fort Bliss, Texas• An infantry unit will be formed at Fort Riley, Kan.• An infantry unit will be formed at Fort Benning, Ga.• An infantry unit will be formed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii• The 5th Stryker BCT will be formed in Hawaii• An airborne infantry unit will be formed at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The Army is sticking with its “units of action” term in order to separate the new brigades from existing ones, and to place a tag on the uniquely structured combat brigades that are supposed to replace the service’s historical emphasis on huge, heavy divisions.

The Army has said it will cost about $20 billion over the next seven years to build the 43 new brigades in the active-duty force. Officials are planning for possibly boosting the number to 48, although Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not given them the go-ahead, Ralston said.

Currently, the Army has 33 brigades that fall into seven categories in the active force, and there are 37 in the National Guard.

Eventually, all brigades, both active and Guard, will make the transformation to the new unit of action and will fall under one of the three types: heavy, infantry or Stryker. Generally, a heavy brigade will have 3,700 soldiers, an infantry brigade between 3,200 and 3,300 soldiers, and a Stryker brigade about 3,600 soldiers.

Three units were created this year and placed at Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Fort Campbell, Ky. Under force stabilization, brigades will train and fight together for up to three years. Army plans call for a 3- to 4-month “reset” window when a UA will first be gathered together, followed by a six-month group training cycle and then a 30-month period of “combat readiness,” which will probably include either a six-month or one-year deployment.

— Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this story.

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up