TACOMA. — The Army plans to eliminate one of the three Stryker brigades at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as part of the reduction in forces as the war in Afghanistan comes to a close, Rep. Denny Heck announced Tuesday.
The 4th Stryker Brigade will be deactivated, but Lewis-McChord will remain an important installation, Heck, D-Olympia, said in a statement after he was briefed on the changes. The Army planned an official announcement later in the day.
That 4th Stryker brigade has about 4,000 soldiers, around 1,000 of whom are finishing a deployment in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, The News Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/17bs5r4 ).
Heck was told the Army also would close or reduce other units at Lewis-McChord to bring the base’s overall count of active-duty soldiers to about 26,500. That’s fewer than the roughly 36,000 currently assigned to Lewis-McChord but more than the 19,000 who served there before the Iraq War.
The 4th Stryker Brigade deployed twice to Iraq in addition to its current Afghanistan mission. It’s known as the “last combat brigade” in Iraq because its final patrols out of Baghdad in August 2010 signaled a transition to entirely Iraqi led missions in the war.
Two other Stryker brigades are based at JBLM, the 2nd Stryker Brigade and the 3rd Stryker Brigade. The base near Tacoma pioneered the use of the eight-wheel Stryker vehicles that were first deployed in Iraq.
The force reductions will ripple through the south Puget Sound economy. An Army study released early this year suggested a reduction of 8,000 soldiers from Lewis-McChord would cause more than 20,100 military family members to leave the area. It also could cause a loss of more than 10,000 military contract and private sector jobs, the newspaper reported.
Army officials assured Heck that Lewis-McChord still has a significant mission.
“Today’s announcement ensures that Joint Base Lewis-McChord will retain its status as the U.S. Army’s main West Coast force projection base. The base will continue to play an important role in the decades ahead as our national security strategy pivots to the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
The Army spent more than $2 billion on construction improvements to Lewis-McChord during the wars. Last year a new two-star division headquarters opened at the base.