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Army numbers to shrink, but not at Fort Wainwright

Posted: June 27, 2013 - 12:07am

FAIRBANKS — Fort Wainwright will add 552 new soldiers as other U.S. Army posts shrink, according to military documents provided to the Alaska congressional delegation.

The post in Fairbanks is now home to 6,300 soldiers. The addition is part of a six-year Army reorganization plan that will reduce forces from 570,000 soldiers in 2012 to 490,000 by 2019.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, additional soldiers at Fort Wainwright will be assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, giving it “engineer and mission command capabilities,” according to an Army analysis.

The announcement Tuesday was welcomed in Fairbanks. In one earlier option, Fort Wainwright would have lost the more than 4,000 Stryker brigade soldiers.

“From an economic development statement, 550 new troops coming into Fairbanks is absolutely good news,” said Jim Dodson, president of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., in an email to community and business leaders. “This is jumping-up-and-down good news.”

Fairbanks officials have been trying to counter an Air Force plan to move an F-16 squadron out of Eielson Air Force Base. The move would cost the local economy an estimated 1,000 military and civilian jobs.

The two Republican members of the Alaska congressional delegation, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said in announcements they appreciate the buildup in Fairbanks but disagree with decreasing the overall personnel count in Alaska.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said in an announcement that the Army continues to recognize the importance of Alaska.

“Today’s decision shows that, despite the national cut of 80,000 troops and ending of two wars, the Army recognizes Alaska’s increasing strategic importance as our defense focus shifts to the Asia-Pacific,” Begich said. “Despite a small net loss at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the restructuring in Alaska will enable the 4/25 Airborne Brigade to gain additional combat capabilities because of this decision.”

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said the decision helps Fairbanks. Alaska overall will lose far fewer soldiers than many other states, he said.

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