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Impact of Army Downsizing Expected to be Light at Ft. Bragg

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FORT BRAGG — After the word "war," "downsizing" is the second-most feared word for military families, and they heard the word Tuesday. That's when the army announced it's rethinking and reshaping its ranks as it heads into the 21st century.

The proposed changes include trimming the number of troops by as much as 13 percent and incorporating more technology to keep soldiers in battle in tune with their surroundings.

Finally, the army will revise its four 'light' divisions to eventually organize large, permanent strike teams. That's about the only area where Fort Bragg could feel the pinch.

The army says the new design will prepare troops for modern warfare as they come to rely more on computers and technology. The make-over will mean a much leaner army that can do more with less.

"A 13 percent cut is unbelievable," said retired General Robert Springer.

Springer says the cut in troops is alarming but with an end to the cold war, the army's redesign plan is logical.

"The wars of the future, we envision, we believe, will be smaller, regional conflicts where you need to get there quickly and smartly," said Springer.

The new plan calls for the army's heavy combat divisions to be transformed into an information age fighting force. Because the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg is already a light division, it probably won't see any direct changes in the near future.

"They go into battle with tanks and armored personnel carriers, we jump out of airplanes, so its really an apples and oranges comparison," Springer explained.

The new divisions will have fewer armored vehicles and more reconnaisance and artillery assets. Computers will tell soldiers in the field exactly where the enemy is.

Some soldiers at Bragg are concerned about the downsizing of troops and concerned about the technology's reliability.

"It could go down in the fields and soldiers have no way of knowing where enemy is at. I think soldiers should rely on each other instead of all this high technology," Sgt. Casanova Chappell said.

"Theres not enough people to do what we do now, we are going 100 miles all the time and less people is going to make it much worse," soldier James Mierisch said.

During a briefing Tuesday, army leaders said trimming troop strength by 13 percent is one of the more conservative options that were considered, so it could have been worse.

The 18th Airborne Corps says it has not been notified of any changes ordered at Fort Bragg.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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