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HEIDELBERG, Germany — It’s been just a month or two since the “Dagger” Brigade returned to Germany after a 15-month tour to Iraq, but already an order has come down that’ll have many in the unit on the move again this spring.

U.S. Army Europe announced Wednesday that it plans to shift the 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Schweinfurt to Grafenwöhr. The relocation will occur in two phases over a two-year period, involving more than 3,700 soldiers and at least that many dependents.

“It’s not like everyone is parachuting in at the same time,” said Col. Lewis Boone, a USAREUR spokesman.

Approximately 1,500 soldiers, or about 40 percent of the brigade, should be settling into Grafenwöhr by early summer, said Jeff Hall, chief of stationing for USAREUR. The rest of the force will arrive this year and the next as additional space becomes available.

Gen. David McKiernan, the USAREUR commander, decided to make the move to give the brigade’s soldiers “immediate access to the largest and best (Army) training facilities in Europe,” according to a news release.

The move, Hall said, will permit a tank crew to spend a day on the range and the night at home, “reducing the turbulence” often associated with a trip to the field.

Additionally, USAREUR said the 15th Engineer Battalion this year would unfurl its unit guidon in Schweinfurt, not Grafenwöhr, as was originally planned. That battalion, which has been inactivated several times since it was first constituted in World War I, is expected to have about 500 soldiers assigned to it.

The “Dagger” Brigade’s change of address comes three weeks after the Army announced it was delaying for at least two years the relocation of the brigade to the States. At the time, the implication was that the combat brigades in Schweinfurt and Baumholder would be staying put at their respective posts until at least 2012.

Boone said USAREUR wanted to announce the “Dagger” Brigade’s relocation to Grafenwöhr, but was told by the Army to hold off. The December announcement at the Pentagon dealt with the growth of the Army — 65,000 over four years — and how and where the new brigades would be distributed.

For now, and probably for several years to come, the plan is to leave the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division in Baumholder.

With respect to the “Dagger” Brigade’s move to Grafenwöhr, of utmost concern to USAREUR is the impact it will have on the soldiers and family members, Boone and Hall said. Boone added that McKiernan views it as a possible retention issue for some in uniform, and so each soldier’s personal situation will play a major role in deciding who moves when.

Many of the moves this spring will involve single soldiers. While some personnel with families may have to relocate before school lets out, much will be done to minimize that, Hall said. Officials know full well that the brigade, which suffered 59 combat deaths during its recent deployment to Iraq, has shouldered a heavy load over the past couple of years, what with tour delays, extensions and casualties.

“These guys are tired,” Hall said.

Schweinfurt, located about 100 miles northwest of Grafenwöhr, will remain open until at least 2012, though Boone said current plans still call for facilities there to be eventually returned to the German government.

Meanwhile, Grafenwöhr, if it isn’t already, would become the largest Army community outside the United States. A new housing area has been built along with schools, an exchange, a commissary, a dining facility and fitness centers.

“I want these soldiers and their families to be able to take advantage of the new housing and facilities coming online in Grafenwöhr,” McKiernan said in the USAREUR news release.


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