European edition, Tuesday, July 24, 2007

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The more U.S. soldiers the Army can send to Bavaria the better, Bavarian Minister-President Edmund Stoiber said Friday during a Soldiers’ Reception here.

At one time, there were 70,000 American soldiers stationed in Bavaria, Stoiber told the audience of mostly U.S. and German soldiers.

“Now there are only about 20,000,” he said. “However, we need American soldiers here in Europe and would prefer to have as many as possible in Bavaria.”

The Soldiers’ Reception — a gathering hosted by the Bavarian government every two years — was held at Grafenwöhr for the first time this year. Stoiber said he chose the American training area as the venue to express his close affinity with the U.S. Army.

The Bavarian government does everything possible so U.S. soldiers can train properly and feel at home here, he said.

“I can assure you that just as every Bavarian state government up to now has stood shoulder to shoulder with our American friends, this will also be the case in the future,” he said.

For his part, the U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army commander, Gen. David D. McKiernan, assured those in attendance that U.S. forces will be sticking around for a while.

Even though the U.S. Army is cutting its forces in Europe, it will keep a majority of its soldiers in Grafenwöhr, Vilseck, Hohenfels, Ansbach, Katterbach, Illesheim and Garmisch, he said.

“You may have heard that over the next few years that the United States will continue sending some of its forces back to America. This is a true statement. It’s all part of our transformation process,” he said.

“But while our military numbers will decrease a little more, our commitment to Germany and our other NATO allies, friends and partners across Europe will remain strong, robust and purposeful.”

During the reception, Stoiber noted that he was speaking on the 63rd anniversary of the famous July 20 assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.

“I am convinced that the existence of the German resistance — even if it was not successful — made a very substantial contribution toward Germany once again finding its dignity and its place in the community of nations,” he said.

Stoiber also touched on the work of the German army, which has 7,500 soldiers stationed in foreign lands such as the Balkans, Afghanistan, off the coast of Lebanon and the Horn of Africa.

He also wished the Vilseck-based 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment troops good luck on their upcoming Iraq mission.

“Despite all the horror that overshadows this mission, we Germans have also not forgotten why this campaign was conducted: In addition to the controversial issue of nuclear weapons, it also involved the toppling of a brutal and inhumane dictator, the restoration of law and human dignity, the introduction of democratic structure and the fight against terrorism,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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