Colbrook departs USAG Bavaria, Rieper temporary commander
By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 3, 2016
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Col. Mark A. Colbrook oversaw one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria’s history, ramping up training and support for NATO partners as the alliance beefed up its presence in eastern Europe.
Colbrook relinquished command of the garrison Friday. Col. William E. Rieper took over temporary command until the new commander, Col. Lance Varney, arrives in July.
Colbrook assumed command of the garrison months after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. That move, widely denounced by the international community, unsettled NATO members in eastern Europe along Russia’s periphery.
“Europe has been on a glide slope for the last couple of decades of it not having a serious security challenge,” Colbrook said. “Well, that changed overnight.”
It also changed the nature of the U.S. Army’s — and to a lesser extent the garrison’s — role in Europe, Colbrook said. Whereas the garrison had long played host to international forces using the Grafenwoehr training grounds, the demand for training events grew, and grew quickly. The garrison had to adapt.
“What we have seen here is we’ve rebuilt our infrastructure to be able to project power, to be able to quickly RSOI (receive, stage, onward-move and integrate) forces through our footprint and to be able to support the NATO alliance.”
Some of the infrastructure upgrades over the past couple of years were made to the garrison’s railheads, bridges and roads. Other, less tangible, changes have been in the streamlining of medical processing and how troops live while at the garrison for training, Colbrook said.
Colbrook will now take command of reconnaissance and surveillance Task Force ODIN — Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize — in Afghanistan. Prior to serving at USAG Bavaria, Colbrook was the deputy commander of that unit.
“I have a history with Task Force ODIN, part of the development of it over the years as it’s kind of transitioned and adapted,” he said. “It’s going to feel a little bit like going back home.”
The interim commander of U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria, Col. William E. Rieper, receives the guidon from Michael Formica, director of Installation Management Command-Europe, during a relinquishment of command ceremony in Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Friday, June 3, 2016.
MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES