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Hertling, Baumholder mayor discuss community’s future

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — The mayor of Baumholder, a town where Americans outnumber German residents 3 to 1, said he was assured Wednesday by the commander of U.S. Army Europe that an American presence would remain in the town, amid concerns about the impact of the anticipated withdrawal of the 170th Infantry Brigade.

The Department of Defense announced last week that two Europe-based heavy brigades would be withdrawn from Europe starting next year. Although officials have not named the units, the only two heavy brigades in Europe are the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade, based in Grafenwöhr, and the 170th, based in Baumholder. That would leave two brigades permanently based in Europe.

Mayor Peter Lang said Wednesday after meeting with Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling that the USAREUR commander talked about “what could happen, what could be the plan” during what Hertling described as a meeting between old friends. But “what troops will be here in the future, he couldn’t say too much about it,” Lang said.

The mayor said he conveyed his desire for Americans to continue to be a part of the Baumholder community, not only for the income they generate for the economy, but because of the long-standing friendship between the two nations.

“We’ve been living here with Americans for two generations,” Lang said. Hertling, he said, assured him that “Baumholder is one of the enduring installations and will be in the future.”

Hertling said he could not yet discuss details of the plans, which were outlined last month as part of a national defense strategy that foresees a reduction of forces in Europe. More details are expected when President Barack Obama releases the full budget request for fiscal 2013 on Feb. 13.

Business owners and workers in Baumholder, a town with a German population of about 4,000, say they’re nervously awaiting official word on the future of the U.S. military presence in Baumholder.

“Here, you can fold the sidewalks up if the Americans leave,” said Heidi Conley, 62, an office manager at Atlantic Trust, which sells car insurance policies to Americans only.

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Marlies Kolb, 67, owner of NCO Services, a car rental company in Baumholder, said the community is pinning its hopes on the pledge that Baumholder will remain an “enduring community.”

“The military is our industry,” she said. “I just hope we get other troops here, even if it’s not as many.”

The military community in Baumholder numbers roughly 14,000, including families and civilians, according to base officials. Of the 4,500 soldier authorizations for the garrison, 3,800 belong to the brigade, according to USAREUR.

It’s possible Baumholder could host rotational units in the future, or be home to Army logistics units from elsewhere in Europe, USAREUR officials have said.

svanj@estripes.osd.mil

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