The U.S. Army Materiel Command will shut down operations at two bases in the Netherlands early next year, Defense Department officials announced late last week.

Combat equipment storage sites at Brunssum and Almelo will cease operations by Feb. 29, according to a DOD news release.

The sites are used to store Army pre-positioned stocks. Built in 1983, the facilities once held a brigade’s worth of weapons, vehicles and equipment in case U.S. troops needed gear to defend Cold War allies.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and because of greater threats surfacing in other parts of the world, the Army began to relocate the mothballed armament in places closer to hot spots.

“They created pre-positioned [sites] in other parts of the world,” said Chuck Fick, materiel command spokesman. “We were a source for those sites.”

Since then, the Netherlands sites still have been used to maintain, repair and store combat equipment, Fick said, but in smaller amounts.

When the 1st Infantry Division deployed from Kosovo in 2000, the command replaced the division’s equipment in Germany, allowing the Big Red One to leave much of its gear in the Balkans for future rotations, Fick said.

About 10 U.S. troops and two civilians are assigned to the two bases. They will be reassigned once the operation ends, Fick said. But the closures will have a much bigger impact on the 440 Dutch civilians who do much of the Army’s work there, said Dutch defense spokesman Klaas Meijer.

The Dutch workers run maintenance programs, logistics and administration for the U.S. operation.

In May, base employees learned that the U.S. was looking to cut back. The Netherlands, an ally in U.S.-led operations in Iraq and the Balkans, is already cutting 11,500 defense jobs due to budget cuts, Meijer said.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Meijer said. “We’ll look for other jobs in the Army. If not, we’re going to help them find work outside, offering training and education.”

Because the U.S. operations are on Dutch bases, nothing needs to be actually closed down or turned over, Fick said. The Dutch government will decide what happens to their facilities, he said.

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