Dexheim winds down

U.S., German and NATO flags fly over Anderson Barracks on the outskirts of Dexheim, Germany. The only unit stationed at here, the 123rd Main Support Battalion, is inactivating in June.


By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 14, 2008

DEXHEIM, Germany — The last of the heavy equipment was carted away from Anderson Barracks this week, a sure sign the drapes have been drawn on one of the more isolated U.S. Army posts in Europe.

All that remains for the 123rd Main Support Battalion to do is host a farewell party in June and get folks squared away as they leave Dexheim for their next assignment.

“I hate to see it (the base) go away, I truly do,” said Lt. Col. Dale Critzer, the battalion commander.

For now, U.S. Army Europe intends to hold onto Dexheim, which is south of Mainz, rather than return it to the German government, which is the typical course of action.

Keeping Dexheim in reserve “gives us flexibility in case we need to use that base” in the future, Col. Ray A. Graham Jr., commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hessen/Wiesbaden, said recently.

The Army also plans to inactivate the 123rd MSB, the last unit of its kind. Instead of division-level logistic units, the Army wants more modular, multifunctional structures that sustain brigade combat teams.

Large support units, such as the 123rd MSB, “just aren’t needed anymore in the Army,” Critzer said.

The unit traces its lineage to January 1942, when it was constituted as the 123rd Maintenance Battalion. Inactivated four times over the years, the unit has been in its current form since May 1987, when it was renamed, activated and assigned to Fürth, Germany. It participated in Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-91 and deployed to Iraq in 2003-04. The 123rd has been in Dexheim since January 1992.

As recently as last fall, the support battalion had more than 900 soldiers, ranging from truck drivers to nurses to missile maintainers. Today, unit strength is roughly half that number.

“The last of my (heavy) equipment left yesterday, two forklifts,” Critzer said Thursday.

Critzer hopes the Army will use Dexheim in the future. Located just west of the Rhine River, the installation lies in a hilly area amid a blanket of vineyards. In the spring and autumn, when the landscape is awash in colors, the sight is something to behold.

“It’s like living in a postcard out here,” said Critzer, who has served three tours in Dexheim.

Local officials apparently are not clamoring for the property the installation sits on, so the Army can afford to wait a little to see how the presidential election and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq play out.

“The local people are used to us,” Critzer said. “We’re not a mystery. They don’t mind having us around.”