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European edition, Wenesday, August 1, 2007

LANDSTUHL, Germany — Far from any coastline, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is an unlikely home for hundreds of sailors.

But the southwest Germany locale will play host to yet another contingent of Navy reservists in the fall.

For the second rotation in a row, Navy reservists will fill more than 300 positions at Landstuhl, the largest American hospital outside the U.S. The new Navy unit is scheduled to arrive in the fall.

Currently, 350 sailors — mostly reservists — are deployed to Landstuhl serving as Fleet Hospital Great Lakes Platform.

Previously, Army Reserve units filled the role at Landstuhl, but since fall 2006 the Navy has manned the position. The Navy unit to arrive at the hospital this fall will form its own company, giving Landstuhl four companies. Sixty-eight of the 350 sailors serving at Landstuhl are extending their tours to stay another year.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Gregory House, 25, of Columbus, Ohio, is one of the 68 sailors staying.

“I love helping people out,” he said. “That’s the reason why I joined.”

Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. John Cotton visited the Landstuhl sailors Friday to thank them for their service.

“The miracles that you’re all accomplishing with some severely injured people are incredible and probably not accomplished ever before, you think?” he said. “This is like varsity ‘M*A*S*H.’ This is just unbelievable. There’s people that are alive today because of you all.”

Cotton also spoke about the Navy’s changing role in ongoing engagements.

“It might say U.S. Navy or Air Force over your heart, but it’s actually U.S. Army,” he said. “We are all in the Army. Why? Because the threat for the foreseeable future — probably the rest of your lives — is on land. We are not flying fighters. We are not in the middle of the ocean in cruisers and battleships, are we?”

The sailors now at Landstuhl will also get per diem pay for their deployment, which at $54 a day times during their 300-day stint adds up to around $16,000 per sailor. The sailors are deployed on temporary duty under the Army command, said Navy Capt. Joan Olson, deputy director of Navy personnel at Landstuhl.

During their time so far at Landstuhl, the sailors have served alongside the soldiers and airmen who normally work at the hospital.

“All of us have learned this year how to serve jointly,” Olson said. “It has had its growing pains but, at the same time, it’s absolutely phenomenal to see. It doesn’t matter what uniform you’re wearing; we’re all here for the same reason.”

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