Soldiers in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade that the Army is deactivating next year should know within the next two months where they're going next.
The more than 4,000 troops of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division wonder what the change means for them, their families and their careers. The Army has been holding meetings so they can voice any concerns to senior officers and noncommissioned officers.
The brigade will officially deactivate in March, Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza told News Tribune editors Wednesday. Lanza commands the 7th Infantry Division at Lewis-McChord.
Many soldiers likely will stay at the base south of Tacoma by moving to other units. Others could go to Fort Carson, Colo., where the brigade's subordinate units are expected to relocate.
The Army is balancing soldier requests for new units with the military's broader needs, brigade Commander Col. Jody Miller said at one meeting.
"You can request (a certain assignment)," he said. "Doesn't mean you'll get it, but you can absolutely request it"
Most 4th Brigade soldiers will be gone by next summer. Some could be here until Sept. 30, especially if they're among the about 500 managing the deactivation.
"I don't want to penalize families that have children in school," Lanza said Wednesday, explaining the phased-out departure of the brigade. "Even though we inactivate the unit and roll up the colors (in March), there still will be soldiers around because they have children in school."
Soldiers cannot leave the brigade right now. It returned from Afghanistan last summer, and the Army requires soldiers to remain in their units until they complete the military's standard reintegration process, which includes multiple checkups with health care providers.
Also, according to Miller, the Army does not want to let soldiers leave the unit until it lines up their next assignments.
"All of that is being worked out," Miller told soldiers at a recorded town hall meeting last week.
The 4th Brigade was formed at Lewis-McChord in 2006 and has more than 4,200 soldiers. It deployed to Iraq twice and once to Afghanistan.
The unit is being shut down as part of an Armywide force downsizing. By 2017, the Army is expected to have a force of about 490,000, down from a peak of 570,000 during the Iraq War.
Lewis-McChord is losing about 4,500 to 5,000 soldiers to the downsizing plan, with most coming from the 4th Brigade. The Army last month also deactivated a Lewis-McChord howitzer battalion.