LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A second round of force reductions will result in the deactivation Texas Army National Guard units in Lufkin and other Southeast Texas cities. The affected units are all part of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), or the "Ready Team."
According to a press release from the Texas Army National Guard, the first round of the force reduction made by the National Guard Bureau called for the deactivation of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which includes Lufkin's National Guard unit - A Battery, 1-133 Field Artillery. However, this second round of cuts will include "many of the subordinate units in the brigade."
"In addition to our contributions here at home, the Texas National Guard has become a critical partner in defending America abroad," said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas. "Currently, the National Guard and Active Army primarily mirror each other in capabilities and equipment, but these combat arms reductions put us on diverging paths in resources and readiness that could be irreversible."
Unit closures associated with the deactivation of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will occur throughout Southeast Texas, according to the press release. They will include units in Lufkin, Bryan, LaMarque, Houston, Huntsville, Rosenberg, and Taylor.
"At this time the Department of Army force reductions in relations to the 72 IBCT and its subordinate units would result in armory and unit closures throughout Southeast Texas and Central Texas to include Houston, Bryan, Huntsville, LaMarque, Lufkin, Rosenburg and Taylor," said a member of the Texas Military Forces Public Affairs Staff. "The unit specifically impacted in the Lufkin area is A Battery, 1-133 Field Artillery unit."
The deactivation of Lufkin's A Battery of the 1-133 Field Artillery, will mean that the East Texas soldiers assigned to that unit will be re-assigned or transferred to other units. The public affairs staff member said that could mean retraining and longer commutes for training and drill.
"Additionally, the reduction in personnel could directly or indirectly impact our ability to respond quickly to disasters in Southeast Texas," the public affairs staff member said
The public affairs staff member said the Texas Army National Guard's leadership will be working to avoid "involuntary separations," or soldiers having to be discharged because of the force reduction.
"The Texas National Guard will consider a number of alternative management options in order to take care of our Soldiers despite these Department of Defense-directed cuts," the public affairs staff said.
In response to a question about how the proposed cuts would affect the Lufkin Armed Forces Reserve Center, the public affairs staff member replied that it will remain open because it is occupied by other branches of service.
"However, unit deactivation and force reductions could potentially result in Texas National Guard presence at the armory being eliminated," the public affairs staff member said.
Construction on the Lufkin Armed Forces Reserve Center was completed in 2012. According to a previous East Texas News story, the facility currently serves as a training center for Texas Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers.
The press release stated that the force reduction could result in the deactivation of up to 4,147 soldiers. In addition, the Department of Defense is planning to transfer all 16 of the Texas Army National Guard's 16 AH-64 Apache gunship helicopters to active-duty Army units. The Apaches will be replaced by five UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.
The decision to deactivate the Apache battalion will affect 400 National Guard soldiers who serve at Ellington Field in Houston.
"After 12 years of successful combat operations, it would be disappointing to see the Guard revert to a disaster support force while the Active component retains sole responsibility for combat roles," said Nichols.
The public affairs staff member said the proposed force reductions could be effective as soon as fiscal year 2016.
According to the press release, one possible solution to the proposed cuts is an "independent review of how best to structure America's Army through a National Commission on the Structure of the Army." The commission would look at the challenges facing the U.S. military and make recommendations about an appropriate mix between active and reserve units.
If the commission is authorized by Congress, it would allow Texas Army National Guardsmen to continue serving their state and country and require an independent look at the right force structure mix, the press release stated.
"Texas Guardsmen have shown incredible fortitude in the midst of difficult times, whether it be in combat or cuts." said Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, state public affairs officer for the Texas Military Forces. "Our affected citizen-soldiers will continue serving the state and nation proudly until the final minute of the final day of their units' existence."