Could JBER troop loss make less sense? Let's see

Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson Alaska announced it would be losing the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) of the 25th Infantry Division due to an Army wide 40,000 troop reduction. The loss of 2,600 troops and the accompanying civilian positions will be a blow to the local economy and the U.S. Arctic Defense Force. The Alaskan Congressional delegation promised to fight the move in the face of the growing threat from the People’s Republic of China, Russia and North Korea.

“Alaska based assets have the capability of deploying the military to any hot spot in the world 12 hours sooner than any other U.S.-based installation. The downsizing of JBER seems very shortsighted,” said one of the delegation’s staff.

“The 4th BCT can self-deploy with JBER-based military transportation assets with little notice,” said a spokesman for the 4th BCT. “An Airborne unit like the 4th is always ready to be wheels up in as little as two hours. We train for this type of operation.”

The ripple effect in the local economy will be felt immediately at the retail level and in the building trades’ industry in the coming years as the drawdown of construction on JBER continues. The departure of so many troops will leave the base with excess housing capacity.


This whole situation has triggered a lot of ‘what-ifs’ in my mind, resulting in the following fictional improvisation:

The excess housing capacity has not gone unnoticed by the social services professionals in Anchorage. A long-time social worker who calls herself Teresa (not her real name), who is also a mother, told this reporter, “I don’t know anything about all this military stuff, but I do know the poor need a place to live. I want the new Anchorage mayor to demand some of the vacant housing on the base be set aside for the less fortunate. Just because someone has drug and alcohol issues doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a house.”

While the mayor’s office had no comment, a member of the local homeless advocacy group said, “The time has come to spread the wealth around the country. After such a long and wasteful war against terrorists, we think it’s time to use some of the military’s budget for good. Since the federal government is requiring that low income housing be located in wealthier sections of communities, the inclusion of the poor into vacant military houses is an immediate good first step. I mean, hell, all the 9/11 terrorists are dead. It’s time to move on.”

JBER’s local housing office welcomed the move and said some accommodations would have to be waived for non-military residents, like yard care and vehicle standards.

“One must give our new neighbors time to adjust to permanent housing. We will require the active duty troops to maintain these people’s yards since the military only work 12 hours a day. Troops have ample time to do double duty when not deployed overseas.”

The Anchorage Mayor’s office, after realizing many of the Army troops rode bicycles, announced his office would be petitioning the DOD to connect the Anchorage Trail system to the base. When asked about the ID checkpoint at the gate requirement, a staffer from the mayor’s office had this comment: “No check point will be needed since bicycle riders are trying to save the planet, not just a country. We see no need to interrupt a good bike ride with some silly ID check. We don’t need a picture ID to vote so we shouldn’t need one to go on the base.”

This reporter had further questions about the housing situation, but a phone call to base housing at 1601 hours went straight to voice mail.

In a related story, officials at the JBER/VA Hospital announced the opening of a new Tongue and Cheek clinic addition to existing specialty clinic services.

More details to come as the story develops.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.

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