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2012: Year in review

US moves ahead with drawdown in Europe

It was the year Baumholder said goodbye to thousands of soldiers, and other small garrison towns in Germany prepared to do the same as the Pentagon pressed forward with a plan to shrink its presence in a post-Cold War Europe.

Gone is the 170th Infantry Brigade, which not long ago was home to the largest concentration of combat troops outside the United States.

On the way out in 2013 is the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade in Grafenwoehr. The ripple effects of those moves, announced by the Pentagon in February, mean that the Army garrisons in Schweinfurt and Bamberg will close no later than 2015, ending an Army presence that dates to the aftermath of World War II.

Also slated for elimination is the Army’s V Corps in Wiesbaden.

While the Army took the brunt of the cuts, it was not the only component targeted for downsizing.

The 81st Fighter Squadron, an A-10 unit from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, also will be inactivated in 2013.

All of that adds up to a reduction of more than 11,000 troops, leaving just under 70,000 servicemembers in Europe when all the cuts are completed, according to the Pentagon.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, some critics have questioned the relevance of the military mission in Europe, where more than 300,000 servicemembers were stationed at the height of the Cold War. With no serious threat to the peace, the idea of forward deployed infantrymen and tankers in Europe is an anachronism, critics contend.

Supporters of a substantial forward presence, argue that Europe serves as a platform to other strategic regions such as central Asia and northern Africa.

The military said it will attempt to offset its smaller presence with rotational forces, who will periodically deploy to Europe to maintain relationships with allies.

It remains to be seen how that plan will work.

However, against a backdrop of budgetary pressures and competing security concerns in other parts of the world, it is likely that when the time comes for more cuts, Europe could find itself once again in the cross hairs of Pentagon budget crunchers.

vandiverj@estripes.osd.mil

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