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Brigadier General Michael S. Tucker, 1st Armored Division assistant divison commander for support.
Brigadier General Michael S. Tucker, 1st Armored Division assistant divison commander for support. (U.S. Army)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Brig. Gen. Michael Tucker leaned his 6-foot-2-inch frame forward on his office conference table, a moment of anger flashing through his usually relaxed demeanor.

“I refuse to allow the few to damage the relationship the many have earned during all these years,” said Tucker, 1st Armored Division’s assistant division commander-support.

After one of the worst streaks of crimes and misdemeanors — including arson that destroyed part of Baumholder’s government center — Tucker is laying down the law.

The division’s top-ranking officer in Baumholder, Tucker has instituted new polices and beefed up existing ones, including a ban on soldiers with open beer bottles, cans and alcoholic beverage containers, and mandatory restrictions to base for soldiers caught being drunk and disorderly.

Those changes are being enforced by more supervision downtown via bulked-up courtesy patrols and military police patrols.

“If you drill into the courtesy patrols, you find out they’re not as robust as you think they’d be,” he said. Now, courtesy patrol personnel must be E-7 sergeants first class, or E-6 staff sergeants (promotable), he said. And though courtesy patrol soldiers don’t have arrest powers, they will have radio communication with military police who do.

Patrols are shifting schedules to peak activity periods of midnight to 5 a.m.

“It doesn’t do any good at 9 p.m.,” Tucker said.

Finally, the courtesy patrols will have names of soldiers who are restricted to post.

Carousing soldiers face being barred from downtown for 30 days for their first offense, 60 days for the second and 90 days for the third, with the possibility of getting chaptered out, he said.

After the first offense, soldiers will be referred for drug and alcohol counseling, Tucker added.

Though it’s not illegal in Germany to walk around with a drink, soldiers shuttling between the base and Baumholder’s clubs have left “a trail” of bottles and cans, Tucker said. Beyond litter, bottles are weapons, with soldiers throwing them at cars or at each other, he said.

Soldiers who can’t get into clubs drink on the street in impromptu street parties, he added, with the din being an irritant for residents.

Soldiers inclined to trouble may have picked the wrong watch to misbehave. A prior enlisted man, Tucker said he believes soldiers are diplomats, representing American military tradition in Germany, where Tucker has spent much of his military career.

He said he believes 20 or 30 soldiers out of 4,000-plus cause most of the problems — a relatively tiny fraction considering Baumholder, home to the 2nd Brigade and Division Artillery, has the largest concentration of combat-arms units outside the United States.

Expecting “steely-eyed killers” to be Boy Scouts is unrealistic, he said.

Tucker acknowledged he’s up against a hard-drinking Army culture, saying some units welcome new soldiers with a “rite of passage” — 12 shots of schnapps in a row. But he knows from personal experience that soldiers can show self-control.

“I’ve been downtown as a platoon sergeant, as a lieutenant and now as a general,” Tucker said. “Nobody likes drinking a beer any more than I do.”

If soldiers can’t muster the discipline to drink responsibly, “you’re not allowed to go downtown,” Tucker said. “I refuse to look the other way on this.”

Soldiers interviewed out on the town tended to agree with Tucker.

“They come down, they drink a lot, and that’s where the problems start, right there,” said Spc. Gregory Sams, of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, who was partying last weekend. “When people drink, they forget they’re in the Army.”

Sober, soldiers live by the seven Army values including respect for others and integrity, Sams said. But the booze “throws the Army values out of their head.”

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