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Ebb and flow in the 1990s

One division down, quiet decade, ends with a bang

Activation of the 199th Infantry Brigade at Fort Lewis February 1991. Photo credit: The Ranger newspaper

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The Department of Defense announced officially in January 1990 the end of the 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) - a crushing blow for the local community now wondering whether Fort Lewis would remain open.  At the time, rumors suggested that the 7th Infantry Division from Fort Ord would move here, but that concern was overshadowed by conflicts in the Middle East. 


President George Bush ordered troops August 7, 1990, to deploy to the Middle East and prepare for battle after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  Immediately, the 593rd Area Support Group left, as did I Corps' Deputy Commander, Maj. Gen. Paul Schwartz, called to be liaison for the Coalition Forces. I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller left Fort Lewis in November that same year to serve as deputy to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.  (Both generals returned shortly after the war in March 1991).   In September 1990, 1-9 Cav from base deployed, followed by 12 more local units.

What was especially memorable here at home, and common place by the time the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq got underway in the 21st century, was the outpouring of support from the community, determined not to repeat the lackluster and hostile treatment of troops serving during the Vietnam War.  Letter writing campaigns from local school children, yellow ribbons up and down public streets, parades, and even a 90-foot flag unveiled at a Lakes High School football game ushered in the patriotic spirit.

What followed the 9th?

The 9th Division was gone by February 1991, but there was some relief when soldiers from the 9th's 3rd Brigade ripped off their Octofoil patches and replaced them with the 199th Infantry Brigade patch, staying here as a motorized brigade under I Corps.  

Joseph Windle, the commander, said at the time, "(The 199th) is more robust.  The 3rd Brigade relied on support from the division - the 199th as its own artillery, engineers, military intelligence, ground cavalry and chemical support."  Two years later, the 199th redesignated to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment here.

Other units came to Lewis in the early 90s too, these from units transferred out of Germany, to include 4-7 ADA (Patriot), the Triple Nickel Engineer Group, and others.  Still, troop populations would remain low the rest of the decade, getting down to 16,000 at one time.  Fort Ord was closed in the early 1990s, however, the 7th Division did not move here as rumored.

The post did see some building during the 90s, namely Evergreen Elementary school opened in 1991; the new Madigan Army Medical Center opened March 21, 1992, and the base began housing privatization as the decade came to a close.

Future of Strykers

The big news of the 1990s was the start of Stryker testing at Fort Lewis.  Like the 9th Division in the 1980s, Fort Lewis was once again at the forefront of development for a medium force - soldiers that could get to the fight fast with enough firepower and protection to sustain a fight.

Known as Transformation (see accompanying stories to follow), this concept began here in 1999 when Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki designated the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, - technically the legacy of the independent brigades stationed here during the decade, - to be the first Stryker test concept, only known then as a prototype unit.  While this is more a story for the 21st century, it is good to note that it began in the fall of 1999.

Big change at McChord, too

In 1992, McChord's host wing was renamed from the 62nd MAW to the 62nd Airlift Wing (AW). The 36th AS transferred to Japan in 1993. The 7th AS then transferred from California, rejoining its old sister squadrons from World War II. At the end of the 90's another big development at McChord - the 62 AW traded its C141s for C-17s, accomplishing this between 1999 and 2002, and added the 10th AS in 2003. McChord also started hosting RODEO in 1994, and continued up to recent years, but that program has been fazed out and will be replaced by Mobility Guardian in summer 2017.

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