Army to Reestablish 11th Airborne Division, America’s Third, in Alaska

Alaska’s 25th Infantry Division to be Redesignated

WASHINGTON—U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth announced today that U.S. Army Alaska will be redesignated as the 11th Airborne Division, constituting the nation’s third airborne division and second paratrooper division. Secretary Wormuth made the announcement during a line of questioning today from Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which included testimony from General James McConville, chief of staff of the Army. Sullivan and Wormuth mentioned one goal of the redesignation is to give the Army’s Alaska-based forces a greater sense of purpose and identity amid a tragic spike in suicides. The redesignation would also help fulfill the aims of the Army’s recently-released Arctic strategy, which resulted from a Sullivan-authored provision in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.  

“This is a historic development for our Alaska-based military,” Sen. Sullivan said after the hearing. “Redesignating U.S. Army Alaska under the 11th Airborne Division banner presents a dual opportunity for our country—renewing the spirit and purpose of our Alaska-based soldiers by connecting them with this division’s proud and storied history, and better fulfilling America’s role as an Arctic nation. We can’t forget, this development would not have been possible had we lost the 4-25 back in 2015 when the Obama administration was enacting draconian cuts to our Armed Forces. I’m glad to have worked with so many Alaskans, who love and support our military, to preserve our Alaska-based soldiers who help secure America’s interests in the Arctic and Asia-Pacific, and to witness this exciting future for our Arctic warriors.”

“One of the things we found, in addition, that we think is contributing potentially to some of what we're seeing in Alaska is that some of the soldiers there don't feel like they have a sense of identity or purpose around why they're stationed there,” Secretary Wormuth said to Sen. Sullivan. “So we are looking at, as we talked about yesterday, re-flagging the U.S. Army Alaska headquarters as the 11th Airborne Division, which is a division that was disestablished, but has a very storied lineage and we're thinking of essentially renaming U.S. Army Alaska [as the] 11th Airborne Division.” 

“…The 11th has a great history and heritage,” said General McConville. “That means a lot to soldiers and tabs on their badges—things like that matter. But, also, we're looking at the Arctic very differently. We put out a strategy. We think it's very different. We've got to be able to operate in that environment. We've got to make sure the units have the capabilities and that gives them the confidence to be somewhat special—you're the ones that can operate with the right equipment and even transform some of those units so they have the right vehicles to operate in the coldest time [of year]. They have the right equipment and the right clothing. All of those things come together to give them a sense of identity, and that's who we send there. We have a lot of people who want to go to Alaska. They go up there and they thrive. We have some that don't. They just have a tough time…We talked about building cohesive teams. You build a cohesive team around a mission and you give them focus, and you give them identity, and that's what brings them together. That's what we want to try to do.”

The 11th Airborne Division originally operated between 1943 and 1965, first activated during World War II in the Pacific Theater for the liberation of the Philippines and the occupation of Japan. The Alaska-based 25thInfantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, based at Ft. Wainwright, and 4th Brigade Combat Team, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will be redesignated as the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams of the 11thAirborne Division. 

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