Soldiers from Task Force Attack, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, conduct a hot refuel on an AH-64D Apache helicopter before it goes back out on mission Jan 14, 2014, at Jalalabad Airfield.
The Department of Defense will deactivate the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Campbell, according to a statement released by three members of Kentucky's congressional delegation. It’s a move that will drop the Fort Campbell soldier population by nearly 2,500 to 26,500 by the end of 2015, according to various media reports.
The move did not come as a complete surprise. In March, the Army announced it would be losing three combat brigades.
Still, three Kentucky Republican lawmakers expressed dismay with the move. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with Congressman Ed Whitfield released a statement saying they were “deeply disappointed by the Obama administration’s decision." They called it “bad news for our nation’s security and for the local Fort Campbell community.”
FRANKFORT—A group of state lawmakers are calling for the U.S. Department of Defense to abandon its plan to reduce personnel at military bases in Kentucky and across the country.
The reductions would mean a loss of 16,000 positions at Ft. Campbell and 7,605 spots at Ft. Knox, as well a combined income loss of $1.29 billion in Kentucky, according to data from from the U.S. Army's 2020 Force Structure Realignment report, which was provided to the state committee by the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs.
The state's Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Safety wants intends to fight the reductions and voted Thursday to send a resolution to the U.S. Department of Defense.
David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs, said the $1.29 billion figure only includes income, thus the total economic effect of the base reductions could be much greater.
"It's definitely fodder for a letter to the Army," Thompson said. "If we think they're going low on their estimates of economic impact, it's up to us to illuminate that to them and say 'hey, it's a much bigger impact than you're indicating.'"
U.S. Army Captain Sharika Labrie from Blanchfield Army Community Hospital administers a flu vaccine to retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Troy Johnson during Retiree Appreciation Day in 2010. In 2004, BACH had to quit seeing retirees on a regular basis because so many doctors and nurses were deployed.
Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 2:42 pm
While VA hospitals are dealing with long wait times, Fort Campbell’s health system has excess capacity. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital has reopened its facilities to a limited number of retirees for the first time in a decade. Enrollment was cut off to veterans in 2004 because so many doctors and nurses were deployed to the Middle East.
A Meade County native who died while serving in Iraq is being honored this weekend at Fort Campbell.
The U.S. Army Reserve Center at the southern Kentucky post is being renamed Sunday in honor of Major Michael L. Mundell, who died in 2007 from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device was detonated in Fallujah.
Mundell, who was 47 when he was killed, had volunteered to deploy to Iraq, and was survived by a wife, Audrey, and four children; Erica, Ryan, Zachary, and Dale.
Michael Mascari, Public Affairs Director with the 81st Regional Support Command, says Mundell served in an 11-man unit in Fallujah that was training Iraqi soldiers. Several of Mundell’s former comrades will be at Sunday’s ceremony.
“And one of the things that was unique about that unit was how small it is and how specialized the staff were,” Mascari told WKU Public Radio. “They took soldiers from all over, from all different types of units to assemble them for this. And out of 11 people, six soldiers from his unit are actually going to be there.”
The Army has analyzed the impact of cutting 16,000 personnel from Fort Campbell, which would be about half of its current population.
This analysis was part of the Army’s Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment 2020 Force Structure Realignment,(SPEA) which studied the impacts of reducing the force from around 500,000 to between 440,000 to 450,000. The draft study found there would be no significant impact from the Army’s force reductions, though there are many factors to be assessed before reduction numbers are finalized for the 30 individual locations, including Fort Campbell.
The assessment indicates Fort Campbell is a major economic influence in Christian County, Kentucky, and Montgomery County, Tennessee, where the Armed Forces accounts for 23 percent and 14 percent of the workforce respectively. Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp says the SPEA is only a study and has not affected Hopkinsville’s planning. He says there was no impact on Fort Campbell after a similar evaluation was done two years ago.
“We don’t know if anything will happen but we expect that there would not be a significant reduction at Fort Campbell because Fort Campbell is one of the most strategic military posts in the country,” Kemp said. “We’ve been briefed at Fort Campbell by the command down there and we’ve endeavored to obtain as much information as we can.”
The Department of Defense announced that 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Scott Studenmund of Pasadena, CA and 28 year-old Staff Sgt. Jason McDonald of Butler, GA., were among five soldiers killed June 9 while engaged in a combat operation in Gaza Village, Afghanistan.
Studenmund and McDonald were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group at Ft. Campbell. The Defense Department says the incident remains under investigation.
Earlier this month, the Department reported the death of another Ft. Campbell soldier. Twenty-five-year-old PFC Matthew Walker of Hillsboro, MO., died June 5 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by enemy fire.
A Fort Campbell-based battalion is set to case its colors before deploying to Afghanistan later this year.
The 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment will conduct the ceremony Jan. 10 at the sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.
The unit colors are a flag that represents the unit on the battlefield, and casing it symbolizes the unit is prepared for movement.
Once in Afghanistan, the battalion will provide protection for coalition forces across Afghanistan against the threat of indirect fire.
The "Strike Fear" battalion deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, when its members worked to protect Forward Operating Base Shank in the Logar province of eastern Afghanistan, in the north of the city of Gardez.
When U.S. Air Force veteran Staff Sgt. Karl Edward Stempien was laid to rest Thursday, he became the 3,000th person buried at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central since it opened just outside Fort Knox in June 2007.
Stempien had served 11 years in the Air Force.
The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the state's regional military cemeteries. The cemetery in Radcliff contains the remains of 2,489 veterans and 510 dependent spouses and children. The total includes 11 service members who died on active duty, four of whom were killed in action.
The cemetery also serves portions of Ohio and Indiana.