Inside the Gates: How the 4/25 went from chopping block to deployment
The last two years have been difficult for Alaska's soldiers as members of the 4/25 Airborne Brigade Combat Team wondered if their brigade would survive Army cuts.
In July 2015, the Army announced it would be cutting 2,600 soldiers from the 4/25. The decision was met with dismay from local and state leaders, like Governor Bill Walker.
"We look at some of the buildup on the Russian side and what are we doing? We're withdrawing. That doesn't seem to be a good strategy,” said Walker.
The community was also concerned about the economic consequences of losing that many soldiers and their families. Many businesses near the base that cater to military members worried for their bottom line.
The Army decided the 4,000-member 4/25 Airborne brigade would instead become an Airborne task force of around 1,000 members. In October 2015, the soldiers started training for that reality.
"What we're trying to determine is do we have the right mix of people and equipment in the Airborne task force? Are there gaps in capability that we need to add?” said then-commander of the 4/25, Col. Scott Green.
Behind the scenes, Alaska's leaders were lobbying the Army to reconsider. The 4/25 is the only Arctic-capable airborne brigade in the Pacific region, a critical skill as the Arctic opens.
In February 2016, Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, told the US Senate he'd like to delay the cuts for a year, citing Russia's activity in the region.
"They've activated additional brigades, they've put up some command and control capabilities. I think it would be contrary to strategic national security interests to go ahead and pull out the 4/25 at this time,” said Milley.
The Army put the cuts indefinitely on hold in September 2016 and in April 2017, officially reversed the cuts, announcing the 4/25 would be kept at full strength.
The Army also announced the deployment to Afghanistan-- 1,200 soldiers will spend nine months overseas. The remainder of the brigade will be here at home, where state and local leaders, along with the community, fought to keep them.