HEIDELBERG, Germany — The top two Army commands in Europe will be merged into a single rapidly deployable headquarters as part of an overhaul of U.S. forces overseas.

V Corps, which led the assault into Iraq, and U.S. Army Europe, its parent command, will morph into one unit combining the functions of both headquarters, USAREUR commander Gen. B.B. Bell wrote in a message to troops and families throughout Europe on Saturday.

The announcement comes on the heels of President Bush’s decision to withdraw up to 70,000 troops from Europe and South Korea.

Currently, USAREUR has 62,000 troops spread across 240 installations. Most of those bases are clustered in 14 communities, with the vast majority in Germany.

“We expect to reduce those numbers by two-thirds over the next 10 years,” Bell wrote. “Our remaining communities will have access to advanced training facilities, high capacity power-projection infrastructure, modernized well-being infrastructure and services, and state-of-the art communications.”

The 1st Armored and 1st Infantry divisions, both heavy tank and mechanized infantry units in Germany, will move to bases in the United States as part of the restructuring. Officials hope to move one of the Army’s new Stryker Brigades to the Grafenwöhr training hub in eastern Germany, Bell wrote.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, will get a third battalion of paratroops as well as additional support units, Bell wrote.

Units remaining in Europe will be joined by rotational brigades from the States, which primarily will deploy to new “forward operating sites in the territories of our new NATO partners to the east,” Bell wrote.

Romania, Bulgaria and Poland have been singled out by defense officials as possible hosts.

Overseeing it all will be the new merged command, named U.S. Army Europe & Task Force 5.

With USAREUR a four-star command and V Corps a three-star billet, it’s unclear whether the new command will be led by a three- or four-star general.

USAREUR and V Corps’ separate brigades — mostly logistics and support units — will be merged and streamlined into what officials are calling Units of Action, under a new Armywide reorganization of combat formations.

“These UAs will provide the correct mix of rapidly deployable, early entry enablers for joint operations,” wrote Bell.

Army forces in Europe will include UAs for aviation, engineering, communications, military police, intelligence, artillery, medical and others.

“We will also establish one or two additional small, light and mobile [Joint Task Force]-capable headquarters ready for contingencies around the globe,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Bell stated, many units may soon be moving out of Europe or disbanding entirely. “Some units may inactive or return to [the continental United States] in the relative near-term,” wrote Bell. But, he added, “There will be no surprises. If your unit is affected you and you and your family will have time to properly prepare.”

Bell also promised that no unit would be restationed directly from combat zones in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Every deployed unit “will redeploy and reintegrate at its European home base first,” he pledged. “No family will be left to move themselves.”

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