FORT HOOD — A First Army Division West aviation training brigade inactivated Wednesday morning, part of a broader plan to reshape the division as fewer Guard and Reserve units are deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a ceremony in front of the division’s headquarters, soldiers with the 166th Aviation Brigade, which came to Fort Hood with First Army Division West in 2009, cased the brigade’s colors, symbolically inactivating the unit.
“Should the need arise, we will see the colors for the 166th unfurled again,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, the division commander.
About 160 soldiers were with the brigade, which primarily trained National Guard and Reserve units deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere.
A unit that fell under the brigade — 1st Battalion, 291st Regiment — also inactivated Wednesday, and the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 291st Regiment, which will continue the mission of training aviation units set to deploy, was moved into the division’s 120th Infantry Brigade.
“That’s certainly a lot of change, especially for one morning,” Colt said.
It’s all part of “Operation Bold Shift” — First Army’s plan to “restructure our organization, streamline the way we support National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers for deployment and shift training support focus,” according to a document from First Army, based at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., which oversees the West and East divisions.
Those changes will reduce the training brigades within First Army Division West from eight to four, with only one — the 120th Infantry Brigade — remaining at Fort Hood, officials said. The division has brigades at three other installations. The division’s 479th Field Artillery Brigade is scheduled to inactivate today at Fort Hood.
Colt said Bold Shift is a five-year plan that will reshape how the Army trains Guard and Reserve units, eventually providing more trainers and advisers to help train units before they mobilize.
With the ongoing changes, the division will see a drop of about 200 soldiers in the fall, Colt said.
Division West has about 3,700 personnel consisting of active-duty soldiers, civilians and Reserve and Guard troops spread over four installations. More than 1,500, including 82 civilians, are based at Fort Hood.
As part of Bold Shift, many of those civilian jobs are being cut, officials confirmed.
Between 16 and 20 “reduction in force” notices are expected to go out in July, said Division West spokesman Michael Novogradac, adding staff already are aware of incoming cuts.
More notices will go out next year, and the cuts are expected to be finalized by the end of September 2016. About four civilian positions will remain at the division’s headquarters, with soldiers or First Army staff filling any job gaps left by the outgoing civilians, officials confirmed.
Praise for brigade
Col. Christopher Albus, who commanded the 166th Brigade for the past year, said the unit trained Guard and Reserve units in a multitude of aviation fields, including “all rotary wing aircraft.”
He said the brigade provided “safe, realistic training” for more than 30 units that deployed to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kosovo, Egypt or elsewhere.
In his farewell speech, he thanked dozens of soldiers and civilians he worked with in the brigade.
“I’ve always been fortunate to have exceptional people around me,” said Albus, who now goes to Texas A&M University to complete a fellowship for the Army War College.