WASHINGTON — A new message from the Army’s top commander in Europe lays out new details on plans to dramatically downsize and reorganize Army forces throughout the region.

In his most comprehensive overview of the Army’s intentions for Europe to date, Gen. B.B. Bell wrote that Army force levels in Europe would be slashed from 62,000 soldiers to about 24,000.

To get those levels, the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division and 1st Armored Division will relocate back to as-yet-undetermined posts in the United States.

Although emphasizing the plans had not yet been formally approved, Bell said the Army intends to begin moving the 1st ID as early as next year, with 1st AD in trail, following two years later.

“These returns will obviously be associated with the ability of [continental United States] installations to receive them, and requirements to support the Global War on Terrorism. Other Corps and USAREUR units will relocate to [the United States], merge, or inactivate to meet our needs for the future,” wrote Bell.

The remaining troops would be consolidated into four main hubs — three in Germany and one in Italy — cutting the total number of Army installations in Europe by nearly two-thirds, dropping from 236 to 88 facilities.

Since he took command of U.S. Army Europe more than two years ago, Bell has used the messages — what he’s dubbed “Bell Sends” — to communicate directly to troops and families.

The remaining hubs, wrote Bell, will be clustered around existing Army installations at:

Wiesbaden. “We expect this to be the future home of the combined USAREUR and Task Force 5 headquarters, our warfighting deployable command post capability, and some of our theater-enabling commands.”Grafenwöhr. “Here the Expeditionary Training Command will be joined by a Stryker Brigade, the modularized multifunction aviation brigade, and additional theaterenabling commands.”Kaiserslautern. “This will constitute our major service and sustainment hub where theater logistics and medical support will be concentrated.”Vicenza, Italy. “This will be the home of the modularized and expanded 173d Airborne Brigade,” wrote Bell, adding that as many as another 1,000 troops could call the region home with the addition of another battalion of paratroopers there.In addition to the main hubs, Bell wrote that the Army would continue to provide facilities for U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart Germany, NATO’s military command center in Mons, Belgium and a major NATO headquarters in Heidelberg.

In addition to the 24,000-strong force of forward stationed troops on traditional tours with families in tow, Bell said units from the United Sates, without families, will rotated into new outposts in Eastern Europe.

“Our vision calls for up to brigade-size rotations of various types of forces,” wrote Bell, including tank and mechanized infantry, airborne and Stryker units.

“We expect to have this rotational force fully operational in the 2008 time frame. A small deployable command post similar to the one we will have in Vicenza will provide command and control of this force.”

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