FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - A brigade with roots tracing back to World War II's fabled "Band of Brothers" is set to make its final homecoming Wednesday as the Army speeds up plans to decommission the unit.
About 140 soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, are due back at Fort Campbell, Ky., at 5:55 p.m. CDT after six months in Afghanistan, their last scheduled deployment. The regiment is one of 10 brigade combat teams that the Army will shut down between now and 2015.
The Army announced Monday that the shutdown process for those teams would speed up, with budget cuts forcing the military to decommission units by 2015 instead of 2017 as originally planned.
No date has been set for the closure of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, which became famous in book by historian Stephen Ambrose and a subsequent HBO miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
The Army plans to reduce the size of its fighting force from a high of about 570,000 at the peak of the Iraq war to 490,000 -- a reflection budget cuts and of the country's current military needs as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end.
Fort Campbell spokesman Bob Jenkins said the reorganization will impact about 3,500 soldiers and their families. Of that group, about 320 soldiers will be reassigned somewhere other than Fort Campbell while the rest will get new positions elsewhere at the sprawling military post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line, Jenkins said.
"This is a pretty big thing because it's part of the 'Band of Brothers,'" Jenkins said. "In some cases, it will help commanders better complete their missions."
The brigade traces its lineage to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, created in 1942, at Camp Toccoa, Ga.
The 506th was among several parachute regiments created to sneak behind enemy lines in the war. Nicknamed "Currahee," which is a Native American Cherokee term for "stands alone," the regiment parachuted into Normandy during the D-Day invasion in 1944 and then later parachuted into Holland. The regiment raced to liberate Europe amid bouts of fierce fighting in Bastogne, Belgium and then overran Hitler's famed "Eagle's Nest" in Germany.
Ambrose's book came out in 1992, igniting public interest in the regiment. The HBO miniseries about the men of Easy Company won national acclaim, and followed the soldiers from paratrooper training through D-Day and the end of the war.