Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, talked with the Coastal Courier on Tuesday about the Marne Division’s current and future missions.
Murray, who just returned from the National Training Center in Fort Erwin, Calif., discussed a list of brigade-level training missions and talked about training priorities and garrison activities that reflect a busy schedule.
“We’ve spent the last 10 or 12 years fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Murray said. “Now we’re going back to try to recapture some of the things we traditionally did — that we still do — but not to the levels we should. We’re going to work on professional development (of soldiers and leaders) and teach our soldiers about the history of this great division. Right now, we have an aviation task force on its way back from (the Joint Readiness Training Center) at Fort Polk, La. The 4th (Infantry Brigade Combat Team) is on rotation to go to JRTC. The 1st (Armored Brigade Combat Team) is in the field now, training up for NTC.”
He said there still are about 260 soldiers from support units that are in Afghanistan, including military police with working dogs and administrative personnel. He also said the division’s 3rd Sustainment Brigade is slated for deployment. Murray couldn’t say where that brigade is going, but he did say that it is not going back to Afghanistan.
He said the 1st ABCT is scheduled to deploy to Europe later this year for about 30 days of training with North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners. He added that the conventional warfare-training exercise with NATO forces probably will be conducted in Germany and has been scheduled for “many months.” He stressed that the exercise has nothing to do with the current crisis in Ukraine.
Murray said the 3rd ABCT, which is stationed at Fort Benning, has several missions planned with the U.S. Northern Command, including security-operations training with the Mexican army. Also, he said a Sledgehammer Brigade cavalry platoon will conduct quick-reaction force training in Canada. No specific time was given for these or other training exercises.
The Marne Division commander talked about significant training recently conducted by the Georgia Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve at Fort Stewart’s Remagan Drop Zone/Landing Zone and Wright Army Airfield. He said the convenience of having a dirt airfield where C-130s can land and take off and a runway where C-17s can do the same increases Fort Stewart’s value as a joint-service training site.
“There’s been some concern expressed about the noise level caused by the increased training here,” Murray said, noting the sound of big guns and large aircraft is part of required training for a mechanized infantry division. “It’s really unavoidable. (The noise) is probably no different than it was 10 years ago. Yes, we make some noise when we train. I’m not really apologizing for it. It’s what we do. We have to train.”
He said the 3rd ID will continue to do all it can to benefit surrounding communities. Murray said Marne soldiers will be a big part of Memorial Day celebrations in surrounding counties. He added there will be a fireworks display to celebrate the nation’s birthday July 4; however, he couldn’t say if there would be other celebrations due to budget restraints. He did say, however, that beginning May 22, the 3rd ID Band will conduct monthly “Rhythm of the Marne” concerts at Marne Garden.
Murray said the 2nd ABCT, which was chosen for inactivation last year, will have a colors-casing ceremony in October with an official inactivation date in January 2015. He said the brigade’s loss amounts to about 17 companies. There is talk of Fort Stewart getting another unit, which would bring the net loss of troops to 500 soldiers. He emphasized, though, that depends on whether the Army’s total force does not drop below 440,000.
“If we drop to 420,000, it will definitely have an effect,” he said. “I think Fort Stewart is in pretty good shape right now, but there’s not a lot I can do to influence the Army’s decisions. I don’t want to give the false impression that the loss of the 2nd ABCT is the only possible personnel loss. So far, even civilian personnel cuts have been negligible.”
Murray concluded by announcing that both of the division’s deputy commanders will leave in the next two months. More information about that will be provided by the 3rd ID public-affairs office, he