German army to end gate duty at U.S. bases soon

By SCOTT SCHONAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 20, 2006

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The only German troops still guarding U.S. military bases plan to return sentry duties to U.S. security forces by the end of September.

The German army will officially leave its posts at Ramstein Air Base and Sembach Annex during a ceremony at Ramstein on Sept. 27, said Capt. Chrystal Smith, an Air Force spokeswoman.

The two installations, both in the Kaiserslautern area, are the last U.S. bases to say farewell to the German troops.

The Bundeswehr began guarding U.S. military bases in the country at the request of the U.S. government in early 2003, just before U.S. forces invaded Iraq. It was supposed to hand over guard duty more than 18 months ago — according to the initial agreement — but agreed to extend at some U.S. installations.

The 435th Security Forces Squadron, manned by both civilian and active-duty personnel, will guard Ramstein’s gates. But it will have to do so without getting additional people.

Air Force Capt. Jason Livingston, the squadron’s assistant operations officer, said the squadron would have to be “creative” in how it distributes its forces so it can effectively guard the gates in addition to fulfilling its law enforcement responsibilities. Some security forces personnel will be shifted from other areas to perform gate guard duty.

“What we’re planning on doing is to provide the same entry control services as [Bundeswehr troops] do now,” Livingston said.

The U.S. government asked for German troops to guard the bases to free up American security forces, which have had to deal with both frequent deployments and additional force protection measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

At one point, as many as 4,000 German troops stood guard at 50 U.S. installation in Germany. Last December, the German military returned gate duty to U.S. forces at four bases, leaving troops at Ramstein, Sembach and the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and completing the bulk of its guard durites.

A Navy protection force that had provided security at the Marshall Center turned over its security mission last month.

Benjamin Hormann, a member of the German Bundeswehr, checks identification cards on Friday at Ramstein Air Base’s west gate.

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