ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The United States Army announced Friday that it intends to fully retain the 4-25 brigade, also known as the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
The decision will change the original plan to downsize the brigade to a much smaller unit. In addition to the Army announcing its decision to retain the full force of the 4-25, officials have also announced their intention to deploy roughly 1,500 soldiers to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom.
In a news release made public by the Army's public affairs office, officials say the reason for retaining the 4-25 in full is largely due to what they call "emerging mission requirements." The Army also called the deployment of 1,500 troops of the 4-25 is part of a "regular rotation of forces."
“I think that our government is constantly assessing the national security, international security environment and due to some of the trends and challenges the decision has been made a capability of 3,700 paratroopers is an important part of our national security strategy for the Pacific and the Arctic,” said Col. Paul Larson, Commander of the 4-25.
Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan were both critical of the initial plan to reduce the 4-25, on the grounds that it would both negatively impact Alaska’s economy as well as leave Arctic and Asia-Pacific regions less prepared to face threats. The two senators released statements Friday applauding the Army’s decision.
“Alaskans are waking up today to news we’ve been waiting to hear for years now – the 4/25 Army Brigade Combat Team at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson remains intact. As General Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, previously told me – it would be contrary to our national security interest to cut the only Arctic-trained military units that is also ready to deploy anywhere in the Pacific,” Murkowski wrote in a statement.
“Over the last two years my team and I have relentlessly advocated – in both Washington, D.C. and Alaska – for the Army to reverse its decision and keep its only airborne brigade combat team in both the Arctic and Asia-Pacific regions in Alaska. Today, I applaud the announcement that the Army has formally decided to keep the entirety of the 4-25 in Alaska for the foreseeable future,” Senator Sullivan wrote in a statement.
In addition to the news of the 4-25 remaining intact, Murkowski commented on the Army’s deployment plan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which would send some of those retained soldiers in the 4-25 overseas.
“We must have perspective regarding today’s announcement,” Murkowski wrote. “While the 4/25 remains intact, keeping some of the Army’s best in Alaska – it means that many of the brave members of the 4/25 are being sent overseas into combat later this year.”
Governor Bill Walker also said he was "very pleased" about the Army's decision. In a statement made by the Governor's office, Walker wrote, "Alaska has a unique and strategic geopolitical location, and the decision to keep those 5,000 soldiers at JBER is a powerful recognition of that fact."
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz called the deicion "great news," stating that "Our friends and neighbors in the 4/25 [...] help make Anchorage a strong community and are a pillar of our economy."
Congressman Don Young was supportive of the 4-25 remaining intact. He also made statements approving of their upcoming deployment in Afghanistan. "The Army’s decision to deploy members of 4-25 to Afghanistan – in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel – further emphasizes the strength and tenacity of our Alaska trained military men and women," Young said in a statement.
Among those cited for helping keep the 4-25 in Alaska were Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, who last year said that breaking up the unit would be “contrary to U.S. national security interests.” Milley said that while the future is often unpredictable, it’s better to be prepared, and that the 4-25 helps the region do just that.
Colonel Larson said many in the Army are excited by the decision because no one wanted to leave, “The paratroopers and soldiers that are stationed in Anchorage love it here and no one wanted to leave and that’s why we’re so excited today, that’s why the energy level is so high because many of us consider this to be the jewel of the Army.”