War keeps army numbers up in Europe
Latest transformation announcement calls for leaving Hanau, most of Darmstadt
Stars and Stripes
View the complete list of fiscal 2008 transformations.
HEIDELBERG, Germany — U.S. Army Europe announced Thursday that it intends to vacate Hanau and all but one of its facilities in Darmstadt by next summer as part of its fiscal 2008 transformation and rebasing plan.
Additionally, USAREUR said it would use the coming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, to complete the closure of the Würzburg military community, headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division up until last year. Its flag now flies above Fort Riley, Kan.
While the number of “actions,” as they are called, is comparable to those in the 2007 restructuring plan, far fewer soldiers will be departing Europe. Instead of the 13,800 due to come off the rolls this fiscal year, only 1,700 will leave in 2008.
After the fiscal 2008 moves are complete, there will be about 43,000 U.S. soldiers left in Europe, still well shy of the end-state goal of 28,000.
“The next big drop in force size comes when those two (1st Armored Division) brigades and that division headquarters returns to the States,” Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the USAREUR operations chief and deputy chief of staff, said in an interview last week. But, he added, the overall timeline has slipped by at a year “because of the war effort” in Iraq and Afghanistan. The original plan envisioned relocating 1st AD to the States around 2009.
The two brigades Hertling was referring to are the 2nd Brigade, 1st AD, in Baumholder, and the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt. The latter will become the 3rd Brigade, 1st AD after it returns from Iraq later this year.
The 1st Brigade in Friedberg and Giessen is in the process of relocating to Fort Bliss, Texas, where the 1st AD is suppose to go down the road.
News of the 2008 actions, primarily inactivations, relocations and conversions, reached federal German officials Tuesday, regional and local leaders Wednesday morning and affected military units and communities Wednesday afternoon.
In Hanau, for example, hundreds of soldiers and civilian employees packed into the movie theater on Pioneer Casern on Wednesday afternoon to get the official word. Similar gatherings, large and small, were slated in other communities, with Hanau and Darmstadt drawing large crowds because both are inactivating.
“There is an all-hands meeting and, as I understand it, the discussion is going to be on the transformation of Hanau,” Paul Sanders, a community volunteer and Army retiree, said an hour before the assembly.
The latest transformation announcement, the third major one since 2005, primarily involves units and communities in Germany. One exception is the transfer of the 13th Military Police Company in Vicenza, Italy, to the United States.
Other moves range from the inactivation of the 1st Personnel Command in Schwetzingen to actions on the medical side affecting people and pets, to the relocation of the European Stars and Stripes headquarters from Darmstadt-Griesheim to Kaiserslautern. The relocations tend to involve either stateside bases or so-called enduring communities in Europe, such as Grafenwöhr and Wiesbaden.
Hertling expects the near future to be less tumultuous on the transformation front. That’s because 1st AD headquarters and its two brigades won’t be leaving Europe anytime soon due to combat deployments and military construction delays in the United States. Hertling, who will take command of 1st AD next month, indicated the next year or so will consist of “fiddling around the edges” of transformation.
“We are setting the conditions for key transformation” moves in the future, he said, referring to the 1st AD.