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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — A 2 a.m. curfew will take effect Friday for U.S. troops in Baumholder as local Army leaders seek to curtail access to all-night bars that cater to soldiers and serve as springboards for trouble on city streets.

City officials also have been pondering whether to establish a closing time for bars to quell some of the unruliness that too often erupts during the early morning hours, but so far no law has been enacted.

The Army curfew will require soldiers to be out of downtown establishments and off city streets by 2 a.m.

“Soldiers are going to do the right thing if they know what is expected,” Col. Robert P. White, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said in explaining the decision. Drinking at dawn not only translates into trouble in town, but also corrodes discipline, White said.

At issue are about a half-dozen establishments, ranging from bars and discos to strip clubs, that remain open as late as 5 a.m. Complaints from locals about excessive noise during the early morning have been pouring into city hall the past several weeks. The complaints coincide with the brigade’s return to Baumholder last month after several weeks of training in the field.

For soldiers, feelings about the curfew range from resentment to support.

“I can see now why they want to do it. Everything has added up over a certain amount of time. Germans are getting frustrated,” said Pfc. Jeremy Welch, a 27-year-old member of the 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment.

“We have a lot of 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids. They need to be looked out for, for their physical and economic well-being.”

Brawls among soldiers, often occurring after marathon drinking sessions, have become too common, Welch said.

However, Pfc. Jim Aubil said the Army should be focusing exclusively on the trouble-makers.

Aubil, a 33-year-old who recently joined the Army for a new challenge, said it would be better to focus on younger soldiers at risk of getting into trouble. “I’m not out here doing anything wrong,” Aubil said as he shot pool on a Tuesday night at Lemon Tree, one of the bars likely to be affected.

Added 29-year-old Sgt. Michael Postlewait, also shooting pool: “We are adults. Granted, not everyone acts like it. But I don’t think this is the best way to handle it. It’ll make for more trouble in the barracks.”

At Blue, another popular bar, owner Hermann Gerlach said he doesn’t have any plan to kick out soldiers drinking into the wee hours. While it would hurt business to do so, Gerlach also said that sending soldiers home early could just create more issues.

“I think [the Army is] asking for more trouble. They’ll be bringing the problems back to the base,” Gerlach said.

Drinking late, at least in bars, is a relatively new phenomenon in Baumholder. During the 1990s, the whole city shut down at 2 a.m., recalled Jeff Morrison, a retired soldier and longtime Baumholder resident.

The strip clubs also are fairly new. In the ’90s there were none. The establishments began to proliferate after the first Iraq deployment. Today, there are four clubs crammed into Baumholder’s compact downtown.

White said he and the garrison commander, Lt. Col. Derek R. Rountree, intend to meet with some of the bar owners next week, seeking support in their effort to establish order.

If certain establishments seek to undermine the initiative, there will be consequences, White said.

“Then I’m going to make you off-limits,” White said.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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