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Stars & Stripes October 19, 2005

2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor to Be Inactivated

Transformation Calls for Reduction from 3 to 2 Battalions

By Seth Robson

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Transformation of the 2nd Infantry Division will mean inactivating one of the division's three remaining combat battalions and several other units, according to 8th Army officials.

Col. Richard Parker, 8th Army chief of plans, said the division's 1st Brigade, like all U.S. Army brigades, will reduce from three to two combat battalions as part of transformation to a Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

Parker last week said he couldn't say which battalion would inactivate until the South Korean government was informed officially; he declined to say when such notification would be made.

However, 2nd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. George A. Higgins said in March that two of the division's combat battalions — 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment – were at the core of the newly formed 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

The only other division combat battalion is 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment. Soldiers from that unit told Stars and Stripes this month that they were preparing many of the battalion's Abrams Main Battle Tanks for transport to the United States.

Data from the U.S. Army's official Web site and GlobalSecurity.org suggest that if and when 2-72 inactivates, the number of 8th Army tanks in South Korea will have dropped from 140 to 55.

Parker added that every U.S. Army division is inactivating its Engineer Brigade, Division Support Command, Signal Battalion and Military Intelligence Battalion.

The 2nd Military Police Company held its inactivation ceremony at Camp Casey on May 20; an Area I events schedule shows several other 2nd ID units preparing to inactivate in coming weeks.

An inactivation date for 2nd ID's 102nd Military Intelligence Battalion is not in the schedule. However, the 102nd's commander, Lt. Col. Bridget Rourke, recently took command of 2nd ID's new Special Troops Battalion, made up in part of soldiers formerly assigned to the 102nd.

Another 2nd ID unit likely to inactivate is the 2nd Engineer Battalion, according to battalion veterans said earlier this year that the Army had informed them their old unit will inactivate this summer.

Retired 2nd Engineer Maj. Arden Rowley, 74, of Mesa, Ariz., who spent 33 months as a North Korean prisoner of war after being captured at Kunu-ri, said he attended the unit's last Burning of the Colors ceremony at Camp Casey only after hearing the 2nd Engineer Battalion was to be inactivated as part of transformation. "I wanted to make sure I came to this one because it could have been the last," he said. "If there is no 2nd Engineers, they won't keep burning the flag." The ceremony commemorates when the unit burned the flag rather than surrender it to the enemy.

Soldiers from inactivated units will move to the 2nd ID headquarters or the new brigade combat teams being formed, Parker said.

"Each brigade combat team will have their own military intelligence company, signal battalion and engineer companies. The brigade combat teams are being designed with all the capabilities they need built in," he said.

The Army is shifting forces all over the world as part of a new strategy that has seen the active- duty force increase from 480,000 soldiers to 512,000 soldiers, he said. "We had 33 brigades and we are looking to build around 43. We have to take our old-style brigades, like the one we have on the peninsula, and we have to move one of our battalions to another brigade," he said.

Unit inactivation is a purely administrative measure, he said.

"More emotion is attached to it when we say we are inactivating an organization but we do this thing every day in the Army. In a lot of cases we are talking about temporary measures to fit a future plan," he said.

Parker said that while the planned removal of 12,500 U.S. military personnel from South Korea will result in a force with "less combat strength," 2nd ID's single brigade will be much more capable than either of the two current 2nd ID brigades and possibly stronger than both combined.

"We are ... creating more capable organizations with a much higher level of technology," he said. "A good example would be divisions back in World War II. They started with 700 to 800 tanks and at the end of the war, when they were much more capable organizations, they had only 200 tanks" in a division.

The transformed U.S. forces will provide a greater deterrent because they're able to bring capabilities from around the world to South Korea more quickly and with much greater efficiency, he said.


Copyright 2005, The Stars & Stripes