US Army secretary set to revamp Alaska military forces


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The U.S. Army will revise its forces in Alaska in order to better prepare for cold-weather conflicts

Leaders say it is expected to replace the Stryker Brigade in the state with a more mobile infantry unit.

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“I think right now the purpose of Army forces in Alaska is much more about creating an extreme cold weather capable formation” that could be used in Europe or the Indo-Pacific, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told The Associated Press. “We’re trying to get to a place where we have Arctic capable forces — forces that can survive and operate in that environment.”

She said she expects to make a final decision about the troop change soon, including likely converting the Stryker unit to an infantry brigade.

FILE – Capt. Corey Wheeler, front, commander of B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, walks away from a Chinook helicopter that landed on the glacier near Denali, April 24, 2016, on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska.
(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, would be converted to a light infantry brigade. 

The unit and the division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat team would become the 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska. 

Wormuth said that Stryker vehicles would be replaced by some that are more suitable for the terrain.

“I think it really makes sense to have forces trained in the Arctic environments that they would be used for,” she said. “If we’re going to have ground forces in Alaska, that’s what we need them to be able to do. They can’t get that experience going to the Mojave Desert or to Fort Polk.”

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The revisions were under consideration before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. 

Any final decision would need approval from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“If you’re going to do big movements of equipment and things like that, the summer is a pretty important window because it’s a lot easier to move vehicles around than doing it in the dead of winter,” Wormuth explained, telling members of Congress that the Army would offset Stryker losses by increasing the size and capabilities of the headquarters.

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, testifies before a Senate Armed Services committee hearing to examine the posture of the Department of the Army in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program, Thursday, May 5, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, testifies before a Senate Armed Services committee hearing to examine the posture of the Department of the Army in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2023 and the Future Years Defense Program, Thursday, May 5, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The U.S., Wormuth said, has previously resisted moves to militarize the Arctic, even as Russia has expanded its military presence there.

Wormuth wondered if that mindset will be revisited in the near future. 

In April, the secretary watched an Army brigade wage war against fictional “Denovian” forces from California’s dusty Mojave Desert.

“I think right now the whole Army is really looking at what’s happening in Ukraine and trying to learn lessons,” said remarked then.

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“As we’re watching what’s happening to the Russians now, it’s informative for us to think about what is right, from a modernization standpoint,” she said, noting that some U.S. tanks are very heavy and that Europe is muddier.

In line with a plan to convert the Stryker Brigade, the Army’s fiscal year 2023 budget request calls for fewer soldiers, even as it requests an increase of $2.8 billion over fiscal 2022 enacted appropriations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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