By Drew Hamilton
The Army restructuring plan announced in July includes the 2nd Engineer Battalion leaving White Sands Missile Range by 2017.
“Our devotion to and support of these soldiers and families remains steadfast … they are a part of Team WSMR,” said WSMR Commanding General Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham.
She added that “our thoughts are particularly with the 595th Sapper and 40th Mobility Augmentation Companies currently downrange (in Afghanistan) doing a magnanimous job in the fulfillment of their mission.”
The restructuring is a presequestration generated plan in which the Army is reducing and reorganizing its force structure by 80,000 – from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers – based on Army strategy and fiscal reductions required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This is key to maintaining the balance between end-strength, readiness and modernization, so the Army is properly sized for future mission needs.
The plan calls for the battalion’s companies being split up and assigned to different units at different installations around the country. One company, the 40th MAC, will be inactivated. The final destination of the other companies has not been officially announced.
While the current timeline doesn’t have the unit departing until 2017, it’s possible it may happen sooner.
“Depending on whether or not we continue the sequestration into next year, that timeline could be accelerated,” Bingham said.
The Battalion, specializing in route clearance, demolition and explosive use and the placement and removal of mines and obstacles, was assigned to WSMR in 2008.
As the only deployable active duty Army unit in New Mexico, the battalion’s soldiers have seen four deployments with individual companies going to both Iraq and Afghanistan. While deployed, soldiers from the battalion found improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with a near 100 percent success rate; built security features along roads to hinder IED placement; modified terrain to improve safety and security along major routes; and built security features along border areas to hinder the movement of smugglers and insurgents.
WSMR services and facilities will continue to support the soldiers and their families to the level they are accustomed to, and the range plans to continue to provide this level of support until the battalion leaves.
Bingham said she wants the soldiers and families to continually be supported as the battalion prepares to leave over the next few years, and feels good that WSMR is giving them a proper send off.
While the battalion has been on WSMR, the post has seen an expansion of facilities and services to accommodate the soldiers and their families. New housing was constructed, as well as the unit headquarters building, motor pool and support buildings, dining facility and other infrastructure improvements. Additionally, the new McAfee Health Clinic is scheduled to open later this summer.
As an installation with a significant test mission, WSMR’s loss of the engineers shouldn’t have a direct impact on most of the civilian workforce, however some organizations whose function is directly linked to the soldier population may be affected as the unit departs.
“No doubt, without future unit restationing, there will be secondary impacts to facilities and services, but we haven’t had the time to do the analysis,” Bingham said.
WSMR leadership hopes the Army will be able to find a new unit or organization that can move to WSMR and make use of these facilities and infrastructure improvements.
“We have capability and capacity here at White Sands ... so we can accommodate additional units stationed here should that determination be made,” Bingham said.
Our devotion to and support of these soldiers and families remain steadfast.
BRIG. GEN. GWEN BINGHAM, White Sands Missile Range commanding general