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When soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery return to Wackernheim, Germany, this month, they will begin to close down their unit.

The battalion, which has served in Iraq for the past year, will cease to exist by Sept. 30, U.S. Army Europe announced Friday in a news release, under an Army plan to “rebalance forces.”

Air defense artillery battalions will be removed from each of the Army’s 10 active-duty divisions, the release said. The 1/4 ADA, which falls under the 1st Armored Division, is the first USAREUR unit affected.

For the past year, the battalion guarded Baghdad International Airport, where the 1st AD maintains its headquarters. Battalion members are due home by the end of April, said Capt. Nimrod Spilman, 34, of San Diego, who leads the battalion’s rear detachment.

In March, the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Richard Reid, returned from Baghdad to brief families during a town hall meeting. While at the time Reid had no official word of the unit’s inactivation, Spilman said, Reid wanted to quell any speculation.

“There had been rumors floating around,” Spilman said. “We, as the command, were planning ahead.”

While downrange, Reid’s command began preparing. Much of the unit’s equipment will remain in Kuwait when the troops return to Germany.

“That’s helping out a lot,” Spilman said.

The unit, based at McCulley Barracks, has about 500 soldiers, half of whom are married with families, Spilman said. Most of the families live in Wiesbaden’s Hainerberg and Aukumm housing areas.

When they return, troops will undergo USAREUR’s reintegration program and take leave in the coming months, the USAREUR release said.

Troops may move within the division, while others will be reassigned to units in Europe. Some may return stateside or be offered the opportunity to train for a new military job. The Army’s Human Resources Command is helping soldiers with follow-on assignments, Spilman said.

“A plan has been worked for HRC to take a role in their lives,” Spilman said. “They don’t want to leave the soldiers and their families out hanging.”

Already soldiers and families are looking for more information, Spilman said, such as new orders and how to obtain visas for local nationals.

Under the plan, the Kitzingen, Germany-based 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery will close in 2005. The unit is currently deployed to Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division.

The changes will not reduce USAREUR’s troop strength of about 62,000 soldiers. The Army is shifting about 100,000 soldiers’ jobs to support the war effort, and the changes are not linked to any proposed drawdown in Europe, the release said.


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