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Piece of 'Band of Brothers' gets new commander

Apr. 23, 2014 - 08:13PM   |  
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FORT CAMPBELL, KY. — The original “Band of Brothers” has a new commander and will be getting a new home.

The 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment executed a change of command ceremony at Fort Campbell on Wednesday. At the end of the week, the regiment will move from the 4th Brigade Combat Team to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The move is being made as the Army shrinks its overall size as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wrap up.

The 4th Brigade, which is part of the 101st Airborne Division, became famous in a book by historian Stephen Ambrose and a subsequent HBO miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. It will be made inactivate Friday.

“It’s a family,” said the outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Gregory Beaudoin. “You just feel like a piece of you has been taken.”

The 1st Battalion has fought in every major U.S. conflict since being created in 1942 in Georgia and was recognized for its role at the Battle of Hamburger Hill during the Vietnam War in May 1969.

Lt. Col. David Waters will take command of the unit as it shifts to its new home, which is part of a reorganization that will see the Army inactivate 10 brigades and reduce the fighting force from a high of about 570,000 at the peak of the Iraq war to 490,000 — a reflection of budget cuts and of the country’s current military needs as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end.

The moving of the 1st Battalion, a group known as the “Red Currahees,” is among multiple changes at the sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. The post is adding a third infantry battalion to each of its three remaining Brigade Combat Teams, and shut down the 3rd Special Troops Battalion of the 3rd Brigade and reflagged it as the 21st Brigade Engineer Battalion. The 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Brigade has also been changed to a composite artillery formation.

The reorganization at the post is expected to be complete by the end of 2015. The goal, military officials said, is a more agile Army ready to meet current and future mission requirements.

The moves allow Fort Campbell to hold on to one of the most active and decorate units on the post and keep the history and lineage of the group alive, said Maj. Gen. James McConville, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. The realignment also makes the units more flexible, McConville said.

“The addition of a third maneuver battalion in each brigade combat team adds to the ability of the division to respond to the needs of the Army with a more robust force to meet mission requirements,” McConville said.

Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper, a spokesman for the 4th Brigade, said “a good majority” of the 3,500 soldiers from the dissolved unit will remain in the military and will move to units where soldiers are retiring or voluntarily leaving the military and not being replaced. Sztalkoper didn’t have an exact figure on how many soldiers would be leaving the 101st Airborne.

“Numbers change all the time,” Sztalkoper said. “A soldier may want to re-enlist at the last minute, so numbers change.”

Although the soldiers understand the changes are necessary, it is still tough to accept.

“The Currahees aren’t going away,” said Staff Sgt. Seth Monroe of Charlottesville, Va. “It’ll be just kind of a strange feeling. You can just look around and feel like you identify with soldiers somewhere else.”

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