JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The Secretary of the Army announced new force realignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Thursday afternoon, which will mean hundreds of additional soldiers at the base.
Army Secretary John McHugh appeared at a JBLM press conference to announce a new division headquarters with a goal of ncreasing oversight of combat brigades based there.
The division headquarters, which the largest Army bases have, would be staffed with several hundred soldiers and be led by a two-star general.
According to the Pentagon, the new unit will be charged with providing oversight for personnel, equipment, training and readiness of three Stryker brigade combat teams, a combat aviation brigade and a fires brigade -- totaling some 17,000 soldiers.
"As the Army's only power projection installation west of the Rocky Mountains, JBLM has assumed even greater importance in our new Defense Strategic Guidance," McHugh said. "The dynamic growth over the past decade, combined with their regional significance in our ability to protect and defend the Pacific region, makes JBLM's new headquarters important not only to the Army, but also to the nation."
Retired General Barry McCaffrey said the announcement is big news for the base.
"I think we have had a huge problems around the Army of 10 years or more where we deployed brigade-sized units of 5,000 soldiers, but they didn't have continuing oversight from the next level of command, the vision commander," said McCaffrey. "So the Secretary of the Army putting a division headquarters back at Lewis-McChord, this will enhance the stability of command relationships."
McCaffrey said this means growth at JBLM. Compared to the country's largest Army bases, Fort Bragg in North Carolina has a population of 39,457 and Fort Hood in Texas has 53, 416. Joint Base Lewis-McChord has 34,000 soldiers on base.
McCaffrey said an infantry brigade would be a kind of middle management between the combat brigades and upper tier management on the base.
A Pentagon release said the I Corps commanding general remains the joint base commander at JBLM and the new two-star headquarters will report to I Corps. The Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison Command will continue its joint-installation functions in support of the new headquarters and other tenant units.
The new structure will be activated in October.
KING 5's Jake Whittenberg contributed to this report.