Tanks will be rolling out of Johnstown.

Days are numbered for the Walters Avenue-based 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor Regiment, Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Even if a Pentagon proposal shifting Guard units to the regular Army does not eliminate one of Pennsylvania’s “heavy” brigades, the tank unit is lined up for restructuring as part of another ongoing realignment of Army forces.

Restructuring as a modular unit is the 103rd’s most likely future, said Capt. Leo Ciaramitaro, spokesman for the 103rd.

“We will be reflagged as the 103rd Special Troops Battalion,” Ciaramitaro said. “There will be a headquarters company, military intelligence company and signal company.”

No cut in manpower would be expected under that arrangement.

The regiment’s tank Company C at Friedens and Company B at Connellsville will become part of 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, based in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County.

National Guard leaders looked at the 110th Infantry’s distinguished history when deciding which Western Pennsylvania battalion would remain a heavy battle unit, Ciaramitaro said.

Officially organized in 1873 as the 10th Infantry Regiment, the unit was commanded by Col. John A. Black of Greensburg, a Civil War veteran.

The 103rd, on the other hand, was created from units mustered for World War II, Ciaramitaro said.

As a special troops battalion, the 103rd will be part of a new “unit of action” under the Army restructuring, Ciaramitaro said.

It’s a new way of thinking about deployment, developed through post-Cold War experience.

Traditional “heavy” brigades included numerous larger, specialized units. In addition to tank companies, there are light infantry, air-assault helicopter, airborne, artillery and other units, which are brought together in battle.

Modular plan brigade “units of action” include a little of everything for quick deployment.

“They have all the things they need with them,” Ciaramitaro said. “They are set up to go into theater.”

Restructuring the 103rd would have nothing to do with a new, widely publicized proposal that would cut one of the state’s three “heavy” National Guard brigades, state spokesman Capt. Cory P. Angell said.

“There are a lot of things going on,” Angell said. “Modularity was moving already. That was something we were going to go with anyway.”

The proposal to cut one of the heavy brigades has little chance of acceptance, Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, said recently in a statement. Murtha said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was already backing off on the idea.

“They’re not going to cut the National Guard by six brigades, period,” Murtha said last week.

Were that plan to pass Congress, Gov. Ed Rendell said, the downsizing could mean the loss of a fifth of the state’s National Guard members, 4,000 soldiers.



Randy Griffith can be reached at 532-5057 and rgriffith@tribdem.com.

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