Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (4-25)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) took to the Senate floor to honor the servicemen and women of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division of Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The 4-25, which recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”
Senator Sullivan honoring the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (click photo or here to watch)
RECOGNIZING THE 4TH BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM, 25TH INFANTRY DIVISION
Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. President, once a week when we are in session, I come to the floor to recognize a person or group of people in my great State of Alaska who make it very special. We call them our Alaskan of the Week. Alaska is beautiful, it is big, and it is special. Right now, much of the State is gearing up for the skiing season. Snow is out, and there is nothing more beautiful and invigorating than taking to the slopes of Alaska. It is also a great time to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky.
So I urge everybody to come out to Alaska. Winter or summer, it will be the trip of a lifetime. Of course, it is much more than snow and beautiful dancing lights; our people are what make us so special—rugged, independent, generous, and giving to their families, their communities, our State, and our country. Alaska is a patriotic State—I would argue, the most patriotic State in our great Nation. For one, we have the most veterans per capita of any State in America. We have the very best military forces, and we have a lot of them. Let me name just a few.
We have the Army’s 1st Stryker Brigade, based at Fort Wainwright. Chike Springer, one of my staffers helping me out here, served there in the 1st Stryker Brigade’s Aviation Task Force. We have the Northern Warfare Training Center; the 59th Signal Battalion; the 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion; the Air Force’s Third Wing, 11th Air Force; the 176th Wing; the 673rd Air Base Wing; the Air Force reservists of the 477th Fighter Group; the 354th at Eielson; and the 213th Space Warning Squadron at Clear Air Force Station. You get the picture—some of the best military forces. The 49th Missile Defense Battalion, the cornerstone of America’s missile defense, protecting the entire Nation, is right there at Fort Greely.
These are the thousands of men and women in the Reserves and on Active Duty who are stationed in our great State. We are proud of them, and we owe them and their families a huge debt of gratitude for their service, especially now that we are approaching the holiday season.
Today, I want to particularly recognize the men and women who make up the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division—the only airborne brigade combat team in the Pacific theater and in the Arctic. As my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee know, they are referred to in Alaska and throughout the Army as the 4–25. This unit, over 3,000 men and women strong, is our Alaskans of the Week.
I want to talk a little bit about the 4–25. It has a very strong lineage and heritage. Although it was created relatively recently—in 2004—and was the first new U.S. airborne unit created since the end of World War II, its heritage springs from the 25th Infantry Division, which was first activated in 1941 and played a seminal role in World War II and all of our country’s conflicts since.
Just like the 25th Infantry Division, the 4–25 has played a major role in our country’s conflicts since its inception. Members of the 4–25 have deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and just last September, a couple months ago, they were again deployed to Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan security forces.
As part of a larger drawdown of our military and the Army—a misguided drawdown by the previous administration, announced in 2015—the 4–25 was part of 40,000 Active-Duty Army soldiers to be cut, just gotten rid of. This would have been an enormous strategic mistake for the Army and for America’s national security, especially as it related to the 4–25, the only mountain, cold weather, airborne BCT in the entire Arctic and Asia Pacific. They are also a critical reserve force for any contingency on the Korean Peninsula given how close we in Alaska are to Korea. So what happened? Alaskans circled the wagons. Rallies with hundreds, if not thousands, of my fellow Alaskans came out in our great State, urging the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army: Don’t make this mistake. Don’t cut this unit. Keep it intact.
Here in Washington, we did our work. I had a heart-to-heart with a number of senior Army and DOD officials with one simple goal in mind: to get them to personally visit this unit, to come see them train, to see how capable they were, and to understand their strategic value to America’s national security. And that happened. Many senior Army officials—the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army—went to Alaska, went to JRTC, and watched the 4–25 in action. I remember standing on the second floor of a building in a mock Middle Eastern town watching members of the 4–25 jump into an LZ at JRTC in the middle of the night for a nighttime airfield seizure operation.
There is something awe-inspiring about watching 1,000 airborne paratroopers silently fall out of the night sky to seize terrain— something that probably sends chills up the spine of our Nation’s enemies. Fast-forward to today. Of the 40,000 soldiers slated to be cut from the U.S. Army, only one unit was spared—one— and it was the 4–25. Why did this happen? It happened because they made it happen. This great unit saved themselves. When the Army’s top brass went to Alaska, went to Fort Polk and watched them train at JRTC, they saw what a great unit this was and realized they were making a big mistake.
When General Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, made the final decision to reverse the previous decision of the Army and retain the 4–25, he said it was ‘‘one of the most trained and ready units in the entire United States Army.’’ That was the Chief of Staff of the Army. The 4–25 didn’t rest. They are deployed, back in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, while deployed, just a few days ago, on December 11, Alaska lost a son and the 4–25 lost one of its own as part of this mission. It is heartbreaking for the families and for the unit. These brave young men and women are willing to sacrifice and have already sacrificed, and our prayers are with them during these holidays. They are our Alaskans of the Week. I plan on visiting them overseas during the holidays.
My wife Julie will also be attending an event this weekend in Anchorage for the families of those who are deployed, showing our support and our respect for the men and women in this unit and their families, because, as many know, when a family is deployed, it is not just the young man and woman in the unit who sacrifice, it is the entire family.
To the families, we say thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your service and sacrifice. To the men and women who make up the 4–25, we also say thank you for all you are doing for us—for serving us, for keeping us safe, for protecting this country, when Americans are enjoying the holidays. I look forward to seeing you in theater.
Please be assured that all Members of this body—Senators, Democrats, Republicans—know your record of service and wish all of you Godspeed this holiday season. Thank you for being our Alaskans of the Week. Army Strong. Arctic Tough. Sparta Lives.
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