Archive for Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fort Riley build-up to begin sooner than expected

December 21, 2006

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— The expected build-up of troops at Fort Riley will begin next year, a year ahead of schedule, as Army officials reorganize a key unit to help relieve troops stationed in Iraq.

About 3,500 soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, will begin arriving at the base throughout the year, with about 1,400 of them bringing along their families.

Lt. Col. Christian Kubik said Wednesday that while the timetable is changed, the base population is still expected to grow to 18,300 troops by 2011.

About 1,500 of the base's current complement of 13,500 troops are training as part of transition teams in 60-day cycles for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored, also known as the Bulldog Brigade, has trained those transition teams. The unit is scheduled to drop those duties and form a Heavy Brigade Combat Team of 3,800 soldiers and be renamed next fall as the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

The unit was originally scheduled to reorganize in March 2008.

The change is designed to make the unit more self-sustaining and easier to deploy overseas with Heavy Brigade Combat Teams using Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Kubik said the brigade currently has 1,100 soldiers. About 600 of those soldiers, consisting of the 70th Engineer battalion, will head to Afghanistan early next year and between 200 and 300 other soldiers will be moved to the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division to continue the transition team training.

He said the faster timetable will make for crowded conditions at the base, but isn't a serious problem.

"This is sooner than we expected, but it wasn't unexpected," Kubik said. "Internally, there will be some challenges, but nothing we won't be able to deal with."

The surrounding communities, which have anticipated providing housing and other needs for the growing number of troops and family members, should be ready to take care of the influx, said Sam Robinson, director of the Junction City/Geary County Military Affairs Council.

"I think we are in good shape," Robinson said, adding that single- and multifamily housing developments have been under way for about two years. "This will help keep development moving forward. I was concerned that some developers were going to slow construction due to the slower growth timeline that had been discussed several months ago. That would have been bad since the overall timeline and numbers for Fort Riley have not changed."

Officials also said Tuesday that the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division will stand up 17 months ahead of schedule. The brigade, with 3,400 soldiers, will train and deploy from Fort Hood, Texas. When it returns from deployment, the unit will restation at Fort Knox, Ky., as its permanent home.

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