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HEIDELBERG, Germany – Baumholder stays.

U.S. Army Europe is "pleased to confirm that the U.S. Department of Defense has added Baumholder to the enduring base list for Europe," officials said Wednesday in a press release.

Retaining the Baumholder military community was a recognition of three important factors, the release said: "quality joint-use training areas; maximizing the investment in 1+1 Single Soldier Quarters; and continuing the outstanding relationship with our German hosts, in particular our longtime friends in the Rhineland Palatinate."

"We really are pleased," Lt. Col. Rich Spiegel, a USAREUR spokesman, said. "USAREUR has never made it a secret that we wanted to retain Baumholder."

The decision to keep the base open despite Army Transformation plans has been eagerly anticipated for years, and was championed by USAREUR officials, U.S. European Command officials and the local German government.

Baumholder Mayor Volkmar Pees was one of 13 German mayors who made a trip to Washington, D.C., in June, 2003, to implore Congress and other officials not to take U.S. troops out of their communities.

On Wednesday, Pees, contacted by telephone, said: "We are very happy that the Americans will stay here. For me, it is like an early Christmas present."

Pees said he had hoped the decision would be made before he retires in August.

He said a state development corporation has planned additional off-base housing in the area for American servicemembers. About 6,500 American families live off-base there, he said.

In April, then-USAREUR commander Gen. David McKiernan said that keeping the base was almost certainly ensured. It was contained in a Pentagon global basing plan and waiting for U.S. Congressional approval.

McKiernan last year had argued that keeping two more combat brigades in Germany than Army Transformation planned would better serve longtime alliances and national security. He argued it would be wise to keep Baumholder and Schweinfurt open.

Instead, the Pentagon announced in December that Baumholder’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division would be delayed in its return to the U.S. until 2012 or 2013.

The decision to make Baumholder an enduring community does not affect that brigade’s return to the States. Schweinfurt, the other base McKiernan argued to keep open, is still scheduled to close eventually, Spiegel said.

"It is a key, critical installation until its planned end state," he said.

Other USAREUR communities designated as enduring locations are Grafenwöhr/Vilseck/Hohenfels, Stuttgart, Ansbach, Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, Germany; Vicenza, Italy; and Army communities in the Benelux.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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