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Army to transition Fort Stewart infantry brigade to heavy armor

A soldier with the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, guides his vehicle onto the rail platform at Fort Carson, Colorado, Nov. 15, 2016.

ANGE DESINOR/U.S. ARMY

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 30, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Army will transition one of its light infantry brigades into a heavy armored brigade in the summer as it looks to bolster its ability to respond to potential military threats posed by other nations, the service announced Wednesday.

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will begin exchanging its light infantry equipment in mid-2017 for tanks, infantry fighting vehicles with upgraded armor and self-propelled howitzer cannons, according to an Army statement. The unit is scheduled to officially become the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team in October.

The transition will give the Army a total of 15 armored brigades across its force. It will boast 10 armored brigades on active duty and five in the reserves.

That will give the Army more firepower to respond to the potential for full-spectrum combat operations. Top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, have listed potential conflicts with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as major threats for the United States.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, the Army’s force management director, said the conversion will help the Army retain its ability to “overmatch” such rivals, who in some cases have narrowed the military power gap with the United States.

The 2nd Brigade will actually be re-converting into an armored unit, after spending only about two years as an infantry brigade. The Spartan Brigade, as it is nicknamed, was an armored unit when it participated in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, and played a major role in the capture of Baghdad, known as the “Thunder Runs.” It transitioned into an infantry unit in May 2015, as part of the Army’s drawdown that included cutting an entire brigade from Fort Stewart.

Col. Brian Ellis, the force management division chief for Army operations, said global security challenges have changed drastically since the Army decided to convert 2nd Brigade into a lighter unit.

"As part of our Army processes, we're always reviewing requirements based on strategic guidance to provide the right mix of capabilities to support geographic combatant commanders,” he said.

The conversion will give Fort Stewart two identical heavy armored brigades able to serve rotational deployments to areas including Eastern Europe, where the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team has already served tours to train with NATO allies and deter Russian aggression in the region.

It will take time for the brigade to transition back into a war-ready armored combat brigade, Ellis said. The unit will not begin its initial training regimen with the heavy equipment until 2018.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

 

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