Begich Pleased 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Force Structure Maintained
Fort Wainwright to retain majority of assets, personnel in realignment
After considerable urging from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to maintain 16th Combat Aviation Brigade assets in Alaska, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced today the final stationing decision includes Fort Wainwright. The Alaska military base will retain its assault, lifet and medevac capability with more than 500 personnel and 32 helicopters, with additional soldiers and equipment in the near future.
Over the last year the Army has been working on an analysis of alternatives to permanently station the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. One of the options under consideration by the Army included relocating all the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade assets at Fort Wainwright to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. After urging from Sen. Begich, the Army announced today a decision to “split-base” the brigade between Alaska and Washington.
On Monday, prior to the formal announcement, Secretary of the Army John McHugh called Sen. Begich with news of the decision and to tell the senator his advocacy made a difference. Sen. Begich has worked with the Army over the last year and half to ensure Alaska maintains a robust Army aviation presence.
“I am pleased the Army continues to recognize Alaska‘s strategic value and location” Begich said. “There was discussion of moving all the aviation units at Fort Wainwright that converted from Task Force 49 to the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade to Washington state. I argued against such a move because it would hurt the force structure of the U.S. Army in Alaska, Alaska’s global posture and training opportunities for our soldiers.”
To provide adequate force structure in both locations, 10 helicopters and 156 soldiers from the D/123 Assault Company and headquarters will relocate from Alaska to Washington. However, Fort Wainwright will retain assault capability under its 1-52nd General Support Aviation Battalion which has over 500 personnel and 32 helicopters. Additionally, the 1-52nd will get three more MEDEVAC helicopters in the next few years for a total of 15. Fort Wainwright will also gain 50 new soldiers as part of an Air Traffic Services Company the brigade needs in the upcoming years.
Additionally, the $521 million infrastructure investment at Fort Wainwright to support aviation assets will continue to be funded and carried out over the next several years.
The decision to split-base with Alaska, instead of moving the entire unit to Washington, is significant for the state, Begich said.
“Secretary McHugh and I have been communicating for months on this issue. While I understand the importance of aviation brigades to the Army’s force structure, I was committed to making sure the Secretary understands Alaska’s growing significance when it comes to defense of this country, our current Army presence, and the unparalleled opportunities to train in the state,” Begich said.
Posted: March 30, 2011