KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The U.S. Army garrisons of Kaiserslautern and Baden-Württemberg cased their colors for good Thursday, right before the Army unfurled the flag for its newest garrison in Europe: U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz.
The change-over fell two days after another garrison changeover that converted U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr to USAG Bavaria.
Both transitions, officials said, were much more than a name change.
For Rheinland-Pfalz, the transition has been in the works for at least two years. Garrisons in Heidelberg and Mannheim shuttered, and personnel and units relocated to other communities.
The Kaiserslautern area, already home to the largest U.S. military presence outside the U.S., absorbed a number of those orphaned units. It expanded its footprint to accommodate them, taking over an old Air Force base in nearby Sembach in the process.
Col. Bryan DeCoster, who commanded the shuttered Baden-Württemberg said in remarks during the ceremony to mark the shift that “it was often puzzling to me that we only had a battalion-level garrison in Kaiserslautern,” because of its size.
The closure of his old garrison, he said, “has provided us with a new opportunity to right-size our presence in Rheinland-Pfalz to a brigade-level garrison.”
The new USAG Rheinland-Pfalz is made up of 30 active installations and another 10 unused facilities that will soon be turned back over to German authorities.
Those unused facilities are all in Mannheim and Heidelberg.
An additional three installations currently in use — two in Mannheim and one in Heidelberg — are expected to shut down by the end of next year, leaving the garrison with 27 installations, all within the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. The footprint will extend north to Baumholder and south to Pirmasens, as far west as Miesau and east to Germersheim.
Replacement facilities for the detention center at Coleman Barracks and the network switching center at Funari Barracks in Mannheim are under construction, DeCoster said, adding that he’s confident the units will be able to move before the end of 2014.
“The change is mostly transparent to the community,” DeCoster said after the ceremony. “Folks will see the Rheinland-Pfalz signs going up, but the services will remain the same” and might even become “more robust” under the new garrison structure.