JBLM to lose thousands of soldiers

TACOMA -- About 4,500 positions for active-duty Stryker soldiers will be eliminated from Joint Base Lewis-McChord during the next few years, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

The number of reductions were announced in a brief given to congressional members Tuesday morning. The reduction in forces is part of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to a close, Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, said in release. It is unrelated to sequestration.

"This is necessary, natural and appropriate action," Heck said.

According to the News Tribune, the Army will deactivate Lewis-McChord's 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which contains around 4,000 active-duty soldiers. The overall number of soldiers will be gradually reduced from 36,000 to 26,500 over the period of a few years.

The News Tribune reported there was "some disparity" between the numbers provided to the lawmakers and the newspaper; the Tribune is investigating the shift in numbers.

A reduction in 8,000 soldiers could mean a loss of more than 20,100 military family members in the South Puget Sound area. The reduction would also mean a loss in military contract jobs and a general downturn to the South Sound's economy.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, said the news is disappointing for many in the JBLM community, but, ultimately, there is reason to look for the positives.

"These changes are never easy and they will be a tough adjustment for the community, but they come as a result of the end of combat operations in Iraq and the reduction of operations in Afghanistan," Murray said.

"JBLM remains one of the premier military installations in America."

Heck also said a reduction in force was the natural outcome coming from the closing of combat operations.

"The force structure changes will enable us to more effectively tackle a changing geopolitical environment," he said.