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Two Italy-bound 173rd units now staying in Germany

Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team salute during a casing of the colors ceremony at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy, on June 14, 2012, before their deployment to Afghanistan. The Department of Defense announced Friday that two units of the 173rd will remain in Germany, and not move to Vicenza.

WIESBADEN, Germany — U.S. Army Europe will reroute a pair of Italy-bound combat units to Germany and begin eliminating 2,500 positions in support units across the theater. The moves are the latest phases in a lengthy restructuring shaped by a broader Army drawdown.

A field artillery battalion and a reconnaissance squadron with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team will move to Grafenwöhr, near their current locations in southern Germany, the Department of Defense announced Friday. Both had been slated to join their headquarters in Vicenza, Italy.

In an interview, USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell said the changes are part of the command’s long-term effort to restructure that began in 2004 and accelerated in the past year as the military began to shrink its force and refocus its posture toward Asia and the Pacific.

The changes are in line with plans laid out a year ago calling for USAREUR’s ranks to fall to 30,000 soldiers from 40,000, part of an overall decline in U.S. forces in Europe to 69,000 from 80,000.

“In the long run, it helps us, from a re-balancing standpoint, as we continue to support [U.S. European Command] and USAREUR theater security cooperation opportunities,” Campbell said of the announced changes.

It also places two units heavily reliant on large ranges and maneuver space next to USAREUR’s largest training areas, in Grafenwöhr and nearby Hohenfels.

The two units relocating within Germany are the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment and the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment. They are among six units of the 173rd being relocated, in addition to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, which will move from Caserma Ederle in Italy to nearby Caserma Del Din. The transition has been in the works for a year, USAREUR officials said.

The squadron and three of the 173rd brigade’s battalions, including the artillery and cavalry units, are currently stationed in Bamberg and Schweinfurt, both garrisons scheduled to close by 2014. When space recently opened up in Grafenwöhr with the announced inactivation of the post’s 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade, USAREUR wanted to take advantage of the post’s large ranges and its nearby maneuver area in Hohenfels.

The two other battalions, one a support unit and the other a special troops unit for the 173rd, will move to Vicenza as planned. Both will be housed at Caserma Del Din, formerly known as Dal Molin Air Field, which has undergone major construction to provide offices and support facilities for the brigade.

Caserma Del Din will also become home to the 173rd headquarters, which will move from the other post in Vicenza, Caserma Ederle, as called for in original plans. Due to the space opened up by the shift of the artillery and cavalry units to Germany, one of the brigade’s infantry units stationed at Ederle, the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, will now also move to Del Din, USAREUR announced. That move, in turn, potentially frees space on Ederle for U.S. Army Africa, a former task force that recently doubled in size before becoming a service command. Another of the 173rd’s infantry battalions, the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, will remain at Ederle.

The rearrangement lifts Vicenza’s population to 3,700 from 2,700, although it is shy of past projections of the garrison’s future population, which called for between 4,200 and 5,000 soldiers, according to USAREUR. Grafenwöhr’s soldier population will rise to roughly 8,000 soldiers, short of the 8,800 it counted in 2010.

“Long term, I think it puts us in shape in Grafenwöhr for continued capability and allows for Vicenza and the 173rd to be what I would call right-sized over time,” Campbell said.

The restructuring does not affect the plan for rotational forces set to arrive in Grafenwöhr for multinational training this fall, Campbell said. A brigade headquarters and battalion are scheduled to train for 60 to 90 days in the area before participating in a large NATO exercise in the Baltics.

Battalion moves will begin this summer after the 173rd returns from a deployment to Afghanistan.

The Pentagon on Friday also named the 17 Army support units — ranging from policing to engineering and finance — to inactivate in Europe under a plan announced last year. Five other units will move to the U.S. and one will be reduced in size.

Adding up to some 2,500 soldiers, the majority of the units are located in Bamberg and Schweinfurt and most are scheduled to disappear in 2013 and 2014, with a few inactivating over 2015 and 2016. Among them are the headquarters of the 18th Engineer Brigade and two of its three subordinate units, as well as most of the 7th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade in Schweinfurt.

Units returning to the U.S. include the 42nd Clearance Company in Bamberg and the 99th Movement Control Team in Aviano, Italy.

The 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, will lose 190 positions in Wiesbaden and 50 positions at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center heliport, but otherwise remain as stationed.

Campbell said many of the capabilities lost are integrated in the combat brigades and otherwise provided by the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. He said USAREUR’s reduced size does not affect its ability to fulfill its missions of training with NATO allies and partner nations and serving as a first responder for theater security issues.

Although the Pentagon first contemplated drawdowns in Europe as part of its Global Posture Review in 2004, recent changes have been driven as much by financial concerns, the end of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and a planned shift toward Asia and the Pacific. Deactivation of two of the Army’s four combat brigades stationed in Europe began last year, and V Corps headquarters is slated to deactivate after returning from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in the spring.

USAREUR is concentrating the remaining units in six enduring garrisons — in the German cities of Grafenwöhr, Ansbach, Baumholder, Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, and in Vicenza — in addition to joint command posts such as Stuttgart and Benelux.

With funding challenges continuing to threaten programs within the military, Campbell said he wants to ensure plans go forward in USAREUR, particularly the garrison closings.

“We’ve got to make sure, because the (on-post) services are closing as the people move out,” he said. “And it comes down to — at the end of the day — our ability to make sure that we take care of soldiers and families and set the posture for the future.”

Affected units announced Friday include:

In 2013:

  • 535th Engineer Support Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany — inactivates
  • 12th Chemical Company, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany — inactivates
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 391st Combat Services Support Battalion, Warner Barracks, Bamberg — inactivates
  • B Detachment, 106th Finance Company, Katterbach Kaserne, Ansbach, Germany — inactivates
  • 42nd Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg — returns to U.S.
  • 99th Movement Control Team, Aviano Air Base, Italy — returns to U.S.

In 2014:

  • Headquarters, 18th Engineer Brigade, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt — inactivates
  • 243rd Engineer Detachment, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt — inactivates
  • 54th Engineer Battalion, Warner Barracks, Bamberg — inactivates
  • 370th Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg — inactivates
  • 7th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt — inactivates
  • 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt — inactivates
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 95th Military Police Battalion, Sembach Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, Germany — inactivates
  • 630th Military Police Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg — inactivates
  • 464th Military Police Platoon, Camp Ederle, Italy — inactivates
  • 511th Military Police Platoon, Livorno, Italy — inactivates
  • 541st Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg — returns to U.S.

In 2015:

  • 230th Military Police Company, Sembach Barracks, Kaiserslautern — inactivates
  • 3rd Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment (Airfield Operations Battalion), Storck Barracks, Illesheim, Germany — returns to U.S.

In 2016:

  • 69th Signal Battalion, Grafenwöhr, Germany — inactivates
  • 525th Military Police Detachment (Military Working Dogs), Baumholder, Germany — returns to U.S.
  • 1st Battalion, 214th General Support Aviation Regiment — reduced at Clay Kaserne, Wiesbaden, Germany, by 190 soldier spaces and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center by 50 soldier spaces.

— Source: Department of Defense

beardsley.steven@stripes.com
Twitter: @sjbeardsley

 

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