Army National Guard plans could remove 133rd from Maine

GARDINER, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine could be saying goodbye to the Army National Guard's 133rd Engineer Battalion.

According to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree's office, the Army National Guard is nearing the final stages of a plan to reassign the battalion to Pennsylvania. A less specified combat infantry unit would take it's place in Maine.

The Maine National Guard has told Congresswoman Pingree's office that two units in Texas and Pennsylvania will be dissolved, forming 5 new infantry battalions. The proposal is that one of those new units would be sent to Maine to replace the departing 133rd Engineer Battalion.

Members of the 133rd battalion not only train soldiers for combat, but provide community service, building boy scout and girl scout camps and nature trails. They've also been known for their involvement in the Cumberland County and Windsor fairs each year. They also aid in natural disasters like flooding or severe storms. The 133rd is the oldest unit in the state.

Willy Ritch, spokesperson for Congresswoman Pingree, says there is a concern that the services those men and women provide would greatly diminish if replaced by a lighter infantry unit. "I think that Congresswoman Pingree is going to keep an open mind about this, but at first blush she had some real concerns about it. An infantry battalion doesn't have as many jobs for women as an engineering battalion does," says Ritch. "She'll listen to the arguments but I think she's going to enter this with a little bit of skepticism."

The office of Congressman Mike Michaud, who is running for Governor, sent a statement in response to the proposal: "Congressman Michaud's top priorities are the men and women who serve in the Maine Guard, and ensuring that the force in the state remains capable of quickly and effectively responding to a variety of situations. The Congressman is in the process of talking with those involved with the Guard to get a better sense of the proposal and its impact and will discuss it with Brig. Gen. Campbell once he is stateside."

NEWS CENTER also reached out to the offices of Governor Paul LePage and Senator Angus King; King sits on the U.S. Senate's Armed Services Committee; we did not hear back from either one by the time this story was published.

Pingree's office says this transfer isn't expected to happen until sometime between 2017 and 2019, which gives them time to further discuss the plans.

A press conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon with the Army National Guard was cancelled.


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