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Germany's 12th Panzer Brigade troops practice riot control at Grafenwöhr Training Area on Thursday.
Germany's 12th Panzer Brigade troops practice riot control at Grafenwöhr Training Area on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

European edition, Sunday, September 16, 2007

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — For eight weeks each year, the U.S. Army’s Grafenwöhr Training Area reverts to its pre-World War II function — a place for the German army to practice its combat skills.

This month, soldiers from the 12th Panzer Brigade are at the U.S. Army’s premier training ground in Europe to prepare for missions to Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia.

German Leopard tanks and Marder armored personnel carriers are grinding along ranges where U.S. Stryker APCs, Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks normally prowl.

The brigade, which returned from a mission to Kosovo last year, recently finished a period of basic tank and mechanized infantry training, according to Lt. Col. Hans Witthauer, the brigade’s chief of staff.

“From now on, we start training designed for our missions. During those missions we won’t have our tanks or APCs with us. Our tank battalion soldiers will act as infantry,” he said.

On Thursday the German troops practiced protecting their base from a group of rioting role players. The soldiers used plastic shields and pepper spray to stop the stone-throwing mob from entering the camp.

The brigade, based in Bavaria, is allowed to train at the site eight weeks a year, Witthauer said.

“In former times we had a partnership with 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Vilseck. Over 20 years we did a lot of training together,” he said.

The departure of 3rd Brigade for the States last year and the arrival of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment last year led to a new relationship, he said.

“We have close cooperation with 2nd Cav. We did a lot of social events when they first got here, and in March we did a combined exercise with the 1st Armored Division where the two brigades trained side by side,” Witthauer said.

The 12th Panzer helped the Strykers prepare for their recent deployment to Iraq, he added.

“We will have contact with the families and we are planning some events with them, such as a visit to the Christmas market in Nuremberg,” he said.

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