2006 in review: In Europe, a year filled with change
In Europe in 2006, thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan — sometimes for their second or third deployments.
Throughout all the goodbyes and welcome-homes, the American military community in Europe continued to shrink and change through the Pentagon’s transformation plans. Some troops and their families moved back to the States, while others set up new homes somewhere else on the continent.
Time goes by fast, and here’s a look at the stories Stars and Stripes remembers from 2006.
JanuaryJan. 5: The 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade says goodbye to its communities around Friedberg, Germany, and starts heading to Iraq. The brigade was going back about 18 months after returning from its first deployment. According to 1st AD officials, 25 brigade soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq in 2006.
Jan. 26: U.S. Army Europe announces another slate of transformation-related moves, largely focusing on the creation of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade at Katterbach Army Airfield in Germany.
FebruaryFeb. 10: First lady Laura Bush visits troops at Aviano Air Base in Italy on her way to the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Feb. 10: German police charge three Heidelberg High School students with marijuana possession after locking down the school and strip-searching nearly 40 students.
MarchMarch 15: Officials confirm that about 650 soldiers with the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade out of Baumholder, Germany, are heading into Iraq after serving as a reserve force in Kuwait since its deployment in November 2005.
March 16: U.S. officials inform their Icelandic counterparts that American forces will be withdrawing from the island later in the year, affecting about 3,000 military, civilians and family members, as well as about 900 local citizens.
AprilApril 28: The U.S. and Bulgaria sign a 10-year renewable base-sharing agreement, which will allow up to 2,500 American troops to rotate into Bulgaria’s installations.
MayMost soldiers from the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) are back in the Vicenza, Italy, community after a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. In all, 27 soldiers died during the deployment.
May 3: Army Gen. William E. Ward takes over as the deputy commander for U.S. European Command. He replaces Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, who retires.
May 8: A Pentagon spokesman announces that the expected May deployment of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade out of Schweinfurt, Germany, is on hold.
May 17: The first big influx of 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldiers from Fort Lewis, Wash., arrives in Vilseck, Germany. This first batch of 180 soldiers, along with family members, is the vanguard for the 3,200 additional soldiers that will arrive later in the year.
May 19: Reports start to surface that about 1,500 troops from the Baumholder, Germany-based 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division is slated to start heading into Iraq from Kuwait, where it has been stationed since its deployment began in November 2005. About 650 brigade soldiers are already in Iraq.
May 26: Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials announce that gas prices will go up by as much as 30 cents a gallon in June. It’s the first time that a gallon of AAFES gas has topped $3.
May 26: In order to tighten the Army’s financial belt, Installation Management Agency-Europe officials announce that more than 300 temporary workers will be fired in the coming weeks. About a week later, U.S. Army Europe commander Gen. David McKiernan steps in and helps the workers keep their jobs.
JuneJune 8: U.S. Army Europe announces its transformation moves for 2007. Most affected is the Friedberg, Germany-based 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, which is scheduled to head back to the States. In all, about 12,500 soldiers, 18,700 family members and more than 1,000 civilians will be affected by the announcement.
June 9: The 2006 World Cup kicks off in Germany, giving Americans a glimpse at what the rest of the world enjoys watching. The American team fails miserably, not even making it out of the first round. American fans turn their attention back to baseball.
June 29: Hurricane-force winds wreak havoc on Aviano Air Base, Italy. Injuries are reported, but none are life-threatening, and a Black Hawk helicopter is flipped over.
JulyU.S. European Command units help with the evacuation of more than 10,000 Americans from Lebanon as war rages there between Israel and Hezbollah. Many of the rescued Americans make a brief layover at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
July 6: The 1st Infantry Division cases its colors and heads to the States after spending much of its history on the European continent.
July 18: Stifling heat crushes much of Europe. In the Netherlands, the 90th International Four Days March is canceled after two participants suffer heat-related deaths. About 300 Americans were slated to join the march.
July 26: The Air Force announces plans to cut about 8,000 mostly midgrade officers from the roster by September 2007.
July 26: The 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade bids farewell to Schweinfurt, Germany, and heads downrange.
July 29: The Navy opens its first-ever Chief Petty Officer Academy in classrooms throughout Europe.
AugustAug. 8: Officials announce about 2,000 troops from Baumholder-based 2nd BCT, 1st Armored Division are going to be deployed to Baghdad as part of Operation Together Forward II.
SeptemberSept. 6: The U.S. Army V Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, hands over the reins of leadership during a ceremony in Heidelberg, Germany, ending a career that might forever be associated with the Abu Ghraib prison abuse that took place under his watch in Iraq.
Sept. 14: An F-16 fighter based at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany crashes in a field about four miles from the installation. The pilot ejects from the jet and is not injured.
Sept. 19: A helicopter crash near the Grafenwöhr training area in Germany kills two 12th Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers.
Sept. 25: Defense officials announce that the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade will remain in Iraq for an extra 46 days, delaying its return until the end of February.
Sept. 28: AAFES announces that its gas prices will drop by as much as 55 cents a gallon in October, mirroring falling prices in the States.
OctoberOct. 18: Spc. Bobby D. Morrissette becomes the first suspect charged in the July 2005 death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson. Johnson, 25, of the 66th Transportation Company, was found dead in his barracks at Kaiserslautern’s Kleber Kaserne. Charges are later announced against a second soldier, Pfc. Latisha Ellis.
Oct. 23: Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass of U.S. Air Forces in Europe announces during an interview that the command will cut about 3,500 active-duty personnel from the rolls in the next two years as part of the overall Air Force slimming.
NovemberNov. 17: Defense officials announce that the recently formed 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team out of Vicenza, Italy, will be part of the 2007 Iraq rotation.
Nov. 22: Maj. Gen. Fred. D. Robinson Jr., 1st Armored Division commander, says some 1st AD units will start heading back to the States as soon as summer under the Army drawdown.
Nov. 28: The dollar hits a 20-month low against the euro, falling to .7418, the lowest rate since March 2005, when the dollar was worth .7260.
DecemberDec. 4: Army Gen. Bantz Craddock takes the helm of U.S. European Command, replacing Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, who is retiring.
Dec. 6: To the joy of family and soldiers alike, the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade officially ends its year-plus deployment to Iraq during a celebration in Baumholder, Germany. A total of 28 of its soldiers did not return.