Germany housing shortage stalls moving plan
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Plans to consolidate the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Grafenwöhr, Germany, will stay on hold pending a decision expected late this year on whether to keep four U.S. Army brigade combat teams in Europe.
Housing shortages at Grafenwöhr — home to the 172nd’s headquarters and many of its troops — have forced U.S. Army Europe to postpone the movement of three of the brigade’s battalions from Schweinfurt this summer.
The 172nd and the Baumholder, Germany-based 170th Infantry Brigade were slated to return to the U.S. in 2012. But in February the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review backed retention of the brigades in Europe pending a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept and an accompanying assessment of its European defense posture network.
USAREUR spokeswoman Maj. Valerie Henderson said the assessments are not expected until late this year.
"We want to complete the move of 172nd Infantry Brigade to Grafenwöhr as soon as possible … (but) additional consolidation-related moves are being deferred for now to preclude any unit from having to move twice within a three-year period — whether to the States or here in theater," she said.
Other units that were slated to swap places with the 172nd in Schweinfurt — comprising almost 750 soldiers and about 1,120 family members — will stay in Grafenwöhr for now. These include the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 23rd Ordnance Company, 574th Supply Company, 5th Maintenance Company, 1st Cargo Transportation Company, and the 71st Preventive Medicine Detachment, Henderson said.
If the Defense Department decides to retain the four combat brigades, approximately 40,000 soldiers will remain in Europe, facilities in Schweinfurt and Bamberg will stay open, and USAREUR will proceed with the 172nd consolidation at Grafenwöhr, she said.
However, it might take two years to identify developers and build homes for the 172nd soldiers.
That would require 300 more leased housing units and another 100 existing private rentals, Henderson said.
Department of Defense Dependents Schools Europe spokeswoman Margret Menzies said on April 16 that planning for the next school year has not been significantly affected by the decision to leave the 172nd battalions in Schweinfurt.
U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr spokeswoman Susanne Bartsch said Tuesday that most of the new facilities at the training area where the 172nd battalions would have lived and worked are being used by other units.
The only vacant new facility is a 6.5 million euro complex that includes two company headquarters, a vehicle maintenance facility and a motor pool, she said.
Facilities at Grafenwöhr, Vilseck and Hohenfels are planned to accommodate approximately 10,500 soldiers and 15,750 family members. Right now there are about 9,400 soldiers and 14,100 family members there, Henderson said.