Troops Expected To Leave WSMR By 2017

Jul 15, 2013

Lt. Col. James Koeppen tells KRWG News he expects the number of troops stationed at White Sands Missile Range to reach zero by 2017 as the U.S. Army restructures.

Right now, vehicles, like the IED-fighting machine known as the Buffalo, are parked in a long row at White Sands Missile Range.

Used in the movie Transformers as 'Bonecrusher,' it's a sign this base is active in a real-life war in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. James Koeppen commands the 2nd Engineer Battalion stationed here.

"They’ve saved countless lives…it'll separate the engine compartment, but the crew's okay."

These vehicles and the men and women behind them have proven indispensable in the new type of wars fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, where cell phones and toys become bombs.

“They use their eyeballs… anytime there's a change, the soldiers see that with their eyeballs.”

Improvised explosive devices are homemade bombs that represent well over half of coalition deaths in those countries. The bomb used at the Boston marathon is considered an IED… they are not part of conventional warfare, and here's why --

"We don't put roadside bombs out there because they're indiscriminate killers…anybody driving any type of vehicle or even walking could set off a roadside bomb, so we don't engage in those types of acts."

This missile range has been here in the desert since the first atomic bomb was tested and battalions have been through here across the years…in the 1980's and right now. But that's all about to change.

“The details of that plan have yet to be published, but by the beginning of fiscal year 2017, we expect this battalion to have departed WSMR.”

The number of troops in the battalion is a small portion of the around 9,000 people that work here. But, they have a big impact on the base.

"I'm ready to bring the 200 plus soldiers here back…as a commander, I'm always ready for them to come home."

As for the future of the battalion, it's been around a long time, so it likely won't just go away.

“We have a history that goes back to the Civil War and every conflict since then…and we're happy that we can continue on with that history -- not at White Sands -- but serving the nation somewhere else.”

This drawdown signals a real close to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's a reminder that the world will never be the same after 2001.

"I've served in two armies, getting ready for a third…but again we're still going to have more people than we did on 9/11.”