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Gannett News Service January 23, 2006

Local unit to undergo transformation

1/156th Armor will grow

By John Andrew Prime

Look for a meaner and leaner but not smaller battalion in Shreveport over the coming year.

And look for it to have a new name as well.

By the fall, what is know as the 1/156th Armor Battalion, headquartered at historic Fort Humbug, should be called the 1/156th Combined Arms Battalion (Armor).

It will be more than a name change. The unit is set to reorganize, along with the rest of the state's 256th Brigade, in light of hard-learned experience in Iraq fighting in the war on terror.

"What we're going to end up being is a combined arms battalion, with two companies of Bradleys (armored fighting vehicles) and two companies of mechanized infantry," said Maj. Scott Adams, who served in Iraq as the unit's executive officer and who is now its commander.

He said its two tank companies will be in Shreveport and Coushatta, "and we'll pick up two infantry companies -- one at Camp Beauregard and one at DeQuincy." The unit will also gain an engineer company in Opelousas.

It will jump from about 500 members to 936, he said.

"We'll about double in size and run the length of I-49," Adams said. "One of our armored companies here goes away, and we'll pick up a few support companies. We'll be more self-contained."

According to an explanatory letter Adams distributed this weekend at the group's first drill since its return from Iraq in September, the state's 256th Brigade, also called the Tiger Brigade, will change from a "Limited Conversion Design Infantry Brigade" to an "Armored Heavy Brigade Unit of Action."

"This is the way all the brigades are moving," said John Pike, military analyst and founder of Washington-based think tank GlobalSecurity.Org. "The idea is that rather than having to do reconnaissance by sending out troops, you do it with UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), so you need fewer troops to achieve combat power. The new combined arms battalions will provide closer integration between armor and infantry, which is based on some of the lessons learned in Iraq over the past few years."

With combat under their belts, unit members have met all assigned requirements as far as time is concerned, and so will not have to do two weeks of annual training this summer, Adams said.

Instead, soldiers will catch up on school work to meet requirements for promotions and get ready for next year, when the tempo will return to normal.

"The bulk of the soldiers haven't been sent to their advanced schools in three years, so most soldiers this next year will be attending school," he said.

Additional good news for local soldiers is they should remain in the state for several years before they deploy again.

"We're told we're going to a six-year cycle," Adams said. "By year six, you're trained enough to be mobilized. Whether you are depends on the needs of the Army."


Copyright 2006, Gannett Co. Inc.