It wasn’t new. It needed a paint job. It can’t do over 55 mph and it rides kind of rough. But it cost something like $46,000 and it’s theirs — at least it used to be. The 596th Maintenance Company wants its Humvee back.

“I won’t say it was stolen. I’d say it was misplaced or mistakenly given away,” said a noncommissioned officer at the 596th in Darmstadt who asked that his name not be used.

Asked to describe said Humvee, the NCO said, “It’s nothing spectacular.”

The Humvee was awaiting its every- five-year paint job when it disappeared, officials said, from a painting contractor’s yard in Schifferstadt sometime over the weekend of July 9 and 10. On July 11, workers noticed the Humvee was gone, apparently through a hole in the fence that hadn’t been there before.

Two months later, the Humvee’s location and whoever took it remain a mystery to the Mannheim office of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

CID agents are definitely calling the Humvee “stolen.” The office has offered a 5,000-euro reward ($6,227) for information leading to the tactical vehicle’s return and prosecution of its thief, and have put spots on the radio asking for help.

They’ve also put out a poster in English and German with the Humvee pictured, although not, as it turns out, completely accurately.

“It does not have the canvas top that’s in the picture,” said Special Agent Louise Goetzelt, chief of investigative operations for the 202nd Military Police Group (CID).

Goetzelt said this was not the first time a U.S. Army vehicle had been stolen.

“We’ve had numerous Humvees stolen,” she said, “and numerous Humvees recovered.”

Nor, she said, is offering a reward unusual.

“It’s standard procedure unless we can immediately find it,” she said.

U.S. Army Europe spokesmen say that three tactical vehicles, including the recently departed Humvee, have been stolen from the USAREUR area in the past three years, according to a search of a “bolo” (be on the lookout) database of alerts that go out throughout USAREUR. In March 2003, a 5-ton wrecker was taken from an MP company motor pool in Würzburg. And in March 2004, a 2½-ton truck went missing from a contractor’s yard near Mainz-Mombach.

Neither of those vehicles has been recovered, said Bruce Anderson, a USAREUR spokesman.

“While [three] thefts over three years is actually a pretty good record compared to the civilian world, we take these incidents very seriously and do everything we can to prevent further thefts,” Anderson stated in an e-mail. “We have very effective physical security measures in place.”

Goetzelt said that Humvees taken in the past were often taken by those who wanted to ride around in them, although she declined to characterize it as “joy riding.”

Officials say they worry about the loss of U.S. military property, but it also brings up security issues, just as stolen military identification cards do.

“We take the security aspect just as seriously,” Anderson said. “As soon as one is reported missing or stolen, a detailed description is sent immediately to USAREUR-wide law enforcement agencies. Then the gate guards are given the description and told to look out for that vehicle.”

But since military vehicles tend to look alike, Anderson conceded, other force-protection measures come into play.

“If someone were to try to get into a base with a stolen vehicle, they still would have to have valid ID that’s in the system and meet all the other requirements as anyone has to meet to get in the gate,” Anderson said.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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