JUST IN: Army Reactivates 11th Airborne Division in Alaska
At a ceremony on the airfield of Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff reactivated the 11th Airborne Division to unify existing Army brigades as the service’s new Arctic operational headquarters.
“We expect them to live up to the legacy of those who have gone before them,” said Gen. James McConville during a phone conversation with reporters before the ceremony. “We expect them to be masters of their craft in the Arctic war-fighting, in extreme cold weather, in mountainous and high-altitude terrain, and we expect them to develop innovative ways of operating in this environment.”
The 11th Airborne Division originally stood up in 1943 and deployed to the Pacific theater in 1944. Division forces saw action in the Philippines and then served as part of the post-war occupation force in Japan. The division was deactivated in 1958 and reactivated from 1963 through 1965.
The new iteration will absorb the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Wainwright.
Under the new structure — which follows on the 2021 release of the Army’s “Regaining Artic Dominance” strategy — U.S. Army Alaska changes from an administrative to an operational command. The 11th Airborne Division will be under U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and will focus on threats such as North Korea, Russia and China.
The commander of the new division said reactivating the 11th and aligning the “different unit patches” in Alaska is important for addressing future threats and for identity.
“So [it was] a little dysphoric before where we all have these different patches,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler. “And likely, not just to the American public, but even in the Army [people] didn't understand and it was not structured properly. And so that gets fixed.”
Commanders said there will be little change in the number of personnel stationed in Alaska. The most significant change in will be the divestiture of the 1st Brigade’s Strykers and its transition to a light infantry brigade.
“We envision them having a strong air-assault capability, but also the ability to maneuver in the Arctic,” McConville said. “We see fielding of equipment like cold weather all-terrain vehicles and giving them the right equipment and the right clothing so they can not only survive in this environment, but they will thrive. And they will be the experts for our Army— we like to see [them as the] best in the world at operating in this environment.”
McConville said the Strykers would be moved out of Alaska in the summer, and the reduced operating and maintenance costs for the vehicles would offset investments in new equipment for the Arctic mission.
“We are in the acquisition process of cold weather, all-terrain vehicles and that is coming together as we speak,” said McConville. “There's also cold weather gear that we’re in the process of procuring. And that's going to happen, over, really the next year or two.”
There will also be changes in training, said McConville. “Historically, we have sent the brigades from here to Fort Polk for the Joint Readiness Training Center, or to Fort Irwin at the at the National Training Center.
“And in order to train the way we're going to fight, we're actually doing those, what we call Combat Training Center rotations, here in Alaska,” he added. “We see those as not only Army, but joint and multinational exercises that we see happening in the future.”
Topics: Army News