69th Air Defense Artillery cases its colors in Würzburg
Stars and Stripes May 14, 2008
WüRZBURG, Germany — Even before the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade cased its colors Tuesday, Leighton Barracks was a ghost town.
Where less than two years ago it housed a division headquarters, medical command and countless other small units, the post now sits lush, green and empty, the American population slowly eroding before the German government takes control in September.
As the soldiers and families have been leaving, so have the base services — a bone of contention for some in the 69th’s 200-strong community.
"A lot of people have been here for a long time," said Sgt. Andrew Zannotti, 21, who’s been with the 69th for more than two years and in Germany for six.
"You hear complaints like, ‘We’re still here and there’s nothing here,’ but everyone deals with it in their own way. We’ve all been taking it in stride … but it’s time to get out of here."
Since the post exchange — once the flagship store for the entire Franconian Region — closed in February, soldiers and family members have been forced to travel 30 minutes to Schweinfurt and the facilities there.
"Hats off to our soldiers," said Col. Joe Fischetti, the 69th commander and 17-year Army in Germany veteran, lauding his troops for the smoothness of the transition that’s left them alone on Leighton, waiting to move to Fort Hood, Texas.
"They’ve had the flexibility to deal with reduced services on post. Everyone understands the business aspect [of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service], and no one was arguing with that."
As for other services on post, Fischetti had nothing but good things to say, giving kudos to the commissary staff for providing over and above the norm, and the Archdiocese of Würzburg for providing a priest for Catholic services for the past four months.
Fischetti added that many of the family support services have been staffed by the 69th team.
"Our family members have been running the place," he said.
Many of those families, Fischetti said, will be moving along to Hood — some as early as next week — where the unit is slated to stand up in August. Others will remain in Germany as part of other ADA units.
Once the 69th is gone, only a few military police and medical personnel will remain on Leighton wearing a uniform.
Major services left on post include the elementary and high schools, the latter of which is soon to see the final Würzburg Wolves graduating class.
The 69th’s color-casing ends a 50-year relationship with Bavaria, most of which was spent in Giebelstadt.
John Queen/Courtesy of the U.S. Army
Col. Joseph Fischetti, commander of the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, right, and Sgt. Maj. David Gonzales, the brigade’s acting command sergeant major, prepare the unit’s colors for casing during a ceremony at the former Victory Gardens Park on Leighton Barracks in Würzburg, Germany, on Tuesday.