By Capt. Tom Blackburn
Deputy Public Affairs Officer
Wyoming Military Department
Changes are coming to some Wyoming Army National Guard unit’s location and force structure.
With recent national budget control decisions decreasing the size of the National Guard and force structure updates by the U.S. Army, the Wyoming Army National Guard will make changes to meet the new guidance.
The most dramatic change will be the deactivation of the 1041st Multi-Role Bridge Company and the activation of an infantry company in Southwest Wyoming next year. These moves are based on national-level guidance with further analysis done by the state’s Army operations office.
“Some of these changes are driven by the National Guard going from 350,000 to 335,000, some by the U.S. Army changing the structure of some units, which we have in the state, and some by the reorganization of units across the country,” said Col. Jesse Kirchmeier, current Wyoming Army National Guard chief of staff, who oversaw the planning for the re-organization as the prior deputy chief of staff for operations.
The 183-person bridge company, which has been in the Wyoming Guard since 1997, will be deactivated as part of the downsizing mandated by national budget control measures. That will occur by the end of the next federal fiscal year. The loss of the multi-role bridge company will have minimal impact on the Wyoming Army Guard’s ability to perform its community response missions.
Soldiers in the 1041st will be given the opportunity to transition to the new infantry company or be assigned into units elsewhere in the state. Kirchmeier said if a soldier wants to maintain the same job they currently hold and that job is available in the Wyoming Army National Guard, then they will be reassigned. The state personnel office will work each case on an individual basis.
The new infantry company, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry, with its 131 available positions, will be stationed in the armories in Evanston and Afton, which formerly housed the 1041st. The unit will fall under the 94th Troop Command, out of Laramie, but still maintain a training relationship with its parent battalion in Alaska. Personnel will start transferring into the Wyoming unit during fiscal year 2016.
Infantrymen are known for fighting on foot and their proficiency with firearms and other hand-held weapons.
“Having the new infantry company will help us with recruiting in that part of the state,” said Kirchmeier.
Also, other units will see some change because of updates made to unit force structure by the U.S. Army. The 133rd Engineer Company will receive an additional platoon, expanding the Laramie-based company into the Rock Springs armory, formerly assigned to the 1041st, ensuring the Guard maintains a presence in Sweetwater County.
“They will receive a new vertical platoon, to go with the two horizontal platoons they have now,” Kirchmeier said. “This will increase their capabilities. Before they could build airfields and roads, missions like that. Now they will also be able to build structures and buildings.”
Under the force structure changes, the Wyoming Army National Guard will also receive a new radar section assigned to the Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 115th Field Artillery Brigade, in Cheyenne and a legal team assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters.
Guidance is already being given to commands to support soldiers’ efforts in retraining for positions within their current units or in another Wyoming Army Guard vacancy.
“With these new units our soldiers will see their career options expand and offer new areas of professional development,” Kirchmeier said.
Another change to the Wyoming Army Guard force structure, not caused by budgetary issues, is a decrease in size to the nation’s brigade support battalions. Wyoming’s 960th will lose about 114 slots sometime in 2017 due to that mission change, Kirchmeier said.
“It sounds worse than it is for the state,” he said. “We’ve known that change has been on the horizon and we’ve been planning for it by moving soldiers out of the unit and not filling unit vacancies after enlistments end or soldiers retire.”
Furthermore, the brigade will shuffle the majority of its unit locations next calendar year to better situate them demographically to sustain recruiting pools for years to come.
Even with these changes, no armories will be closed; communities that have a Wyoming Guard presence now will still have one after the changes are completed throughout 2016.
“We are a heavily invested community organization,” said Brig. Gen. Steven Mount, commander of the Wyoming Army National Guard. “It was imperative to me during the planning of these moves and unit changes that we keep our folks in their local communities and keep our partnerships in those towns strong.”
When things are all said and done, the Wyoming Army Guard will go from an authorized strength of 1,707 soldiers to approximately 1,590 soldiers. Wyoming’s command team stressed that although the changes in force structure will mean some soldiers will be retrained and moved to fill vacancies in various units, no soldier will lose their military job.
The emphasis will be put on ensuring all Wyoming Guard soldiers affected will be assisted in transitioning throughout the change.
“We have been very soldier friendly throughout this process,” Mount said. “We have to take care of the folks in boots at the unit level.”
Public town halls will be scheduled in areas affected by the changes throughout October to give community members the opportunity to ask the senior Army Guard leadership questions. Those details will be released at a later time. For further information about the unit moves, visit the Wyoming Military Departments webpage, wyomilitary.wyo.gov or the agency’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/wyoguard.