It looks like the Army Reserve center on Keith Street won’t be empty for long.
A day after the U.S. Army announced plans to move the Eau Claire-based 397th Engineer Battalion to California, it was revealed Thursday that a new Army Reserve unit will take its place in the building the 397th has occupied for 60 years.
The 980th Quartermaster Company will be standing up in the Army Reserve center at 2005 Keith St. as soon as the 397th completes its closing ceremony on Saturday, although it won’t hold its first drills until February, said 1st Lt. James Bremser, who will command the new unit. The 980th will be part of the Wausau-based 687th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
The 980th will be a warehouse unit primarily responsible for food and water supplies.
“We have to be accountable for all items there and be ready to move it when needed,” said Bremser, a UW-Eau Claire ROTC graduate who previously was an enlisted soldier in the 397th.
Roughly 27 of the more than 150 soldiers in the 397th are planning to transfer into the 980th, which is authorized to have troop strength up to 127, he said.
“Many of them will need to be retrained to a new military occupational specialty to meet the mission requirements of the new unit, but they will still have a familiar home,” Bremser said.
Officials indicated Wednesday that 397th soldiers will be given the option to relocate with the battalion, transfer to another engineer unit or change their occupational specialty to enable them to stay close to home.
Army Reserve recruiters are aware of the new unit, so recruiting can begin immediately.
“I want to make sure as many people as possible know that we will exist there,” Bremser said. “We will be starting rather small but will be focused on building our personnel numbers very soon in order to help ensure that we’re ready to perform whatever mission the Army asks us to perform.”
David Folz, supervisory staff administrator for the 687th, said he was involved in choosing the Eau Claire location after learning Reserve officials planned to add a unit to the battalion.
“When I heard that Eau Claire was an option, I said that unit can go right in Eau Claire,” Folz said. “There is a good population there to draw from, and it gives our battalion headquarters more range within the state, as we currently don’t have anything on the western side of Wisconsin.”
The 397th closing ceremony, which will involve casing the battalion’s colors for travel, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Regis High School.