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Thousands of troops from Germany soon will head back to the States as the military reorganizes into a force designed to better fight modern battles.

The Army is rebuilding around 43 ground combat brigades, each with 3,500 to 3,900 troops. The goal is to have the brigades operate far more independently than existing ones, which rely heavily on their larger division structures to function in a war zone.

During a news conference Wednesday at the Pentagon, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said it was the biggest change in the Army since the beginning of World War II.

The Pentagon announced in May that the bulk of soldiers from the Würzburg-based 1st Infantry Division would deploy as scheduled back to the States over the rest of this year and throughout 2006.

The division’s headquarters transferred to Germany in 1995 while the 1st Brigade remained at Fort Riley, Kan. The new plan calls for the headquarters, as well as one of the Europe-based brigades to return to Fort Riley. The 1st ID’s other Germany-based brigade is headed to Fort Knox, Ky.

In addition, two heavy brigades from the Wiesbaden-based 1st Armored Division are scheduled to relocate to Fort Bliss, Texas, in 2008 and 2009, according to the Pentagon.

According to Cody, 1st AD soldiers, who are preparing to deploy to Iraq later this year, would rejoin their families in Germany before moving with them to Texas.

Remaining in Europe would be sizable Army populations in Wiesbaden, Kaiserslautern, and Grafenwöhr, Germany, and in Vicenza, Italy.

Other parts of the plan include:

Wiesbaden would become the new combined headquarters for U.S. Army Europe as well as Task Force 5, the warfighting deployable command post for Europe’s Army units.Kaiserslautern would continue as the home for theater logistics support units of the 21st Theater Support Command, and medical support units including the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.A Stryker brigade would be located in the Grafenwöhr area, as well as a multifunction aviation brigade that includes two battalions of Apache helicopters, plus lift and aviation support units. That aviation brigade would be based in the Illesheim/Ansbach areas.“The Department of the Army’s Brigade Combat Team stationing plan is in sync with the overall EUCOM Strategic Theater Transformation effort,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rick Haupt, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

“We look forward to the … expected arrival of a Stryker Combat Brigade as one of several significant moves to increase the agility and expeditionary nature of our forces in theater.”

Under the plan, the Army presence in Italy also would grow.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade from Vicenza, Italy, currently serving in Afghanistan, is expected to receive more than 1,000 additional soldiers and become the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

Other enduring military communities in Europe would include Air Force bases in Mildenhall and Lakenheath, England; Ramstein, Germany; Aviano, Italy; and Moron, Spain; as well as the U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany; and Naval facilities in Rota, Spain, and Naples and Sigonella, Italy.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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