Plans to consolidate battalions put on hold
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The planned consolidation of all six 172nd Infantry Brigade battalions in Grafenwöhr this summer has been put on hold due to a shortage of off-base family housing, U.S. Army officials said this week.
Three of four battalions — about 1,300 soldiers — scheduled to move to Grafenwöhr will stay in Schweinfurt, Germany, for now, 172nd Infantry Brigade information operations officer Maj. Dan Welsh said Tuesday.
Two of the brigade’s six battalions along with its headquarters have been based at Grafenwöhr since mid-2008 and the rest of the unit was to have moved there this year. But the plans have been under a cloud since the collapse that year of a finance company that was to have funded a 300-unit off-post military housing area near the training area.
"The original plan was to move the remainder of the brigade to Grafenwöhr. However, that plan has been placed on temporary hold and some units will remain on Schweinfurt," Welsh said. "Once additional family housing becomes available, the rest of the units will relocate to Grafenwöhr to take advantage of all the great training and quality-of-life opportunities that Grafenwöhr offers."
The 172nd’s Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment will move 250 soldiers and 200 family members from Schweinfurt to Grafenwöhr between May and the start of the next school year so as to minimize disruption to families, he said.
The battalion in the coming months will have 600 soldiers based in Grafenwöhr as more personnel are assigned to the unit, Welsh said.
Roughly 1,300 members of the brigade will remain in Schweinfurt with the 172nd Support Battalion, 9th Engineer Battalion and 177th Field Artillery Battalion, he said.
"The units at Schweinfurt will continue to conduct training and operations as they have in the past," he said. "The 172nd has already adapted to this unique situation and has thrived while having units located in two geographic locations."
U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman Maj. Valerie Henderson said Wednesday that she could not answer questions about how the postponement of the 172nd move would affect base realignment in Europe. The Schweinfurt community is not on the list of USAREUR’s "enduring" communities.
On Wednesday, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr spokeswoman Susanne Barsch said that the garrison would not comment on the 172nd move.
It is unclear how much pressure the arrival of 1-2 will place on housing close to Grafenwöhr, which has been in short supply during years of growth.
The U.S. military population there has grown from 1,000 soldiers a few years ago to nearly 15,000 soldiers and family members as of January. Roughly 1,500 U.S. and German civilians also work on the main post, placing stress on the local housing market.
Grafenwöhr mayor Helmuth Wächter said Wednesday that the city is still negotiating with different investors, and that no new commitments have been made, partially because the German federal government refuses to provide loan guarantees for any investment in the Hütten housing area.
Wächter also said that he had the impression that Americans are moving toward an option in which several small investors would build smaller housing projects.
"I think it will be much more complicated for the Americans to deal with several small investors instead with just one big investor," Wächter said. "Of course, it is our responsibility to find a good investor and we are trying hard."
A spokeswoman for Schweinfurt mayor Gudrun Grieser said Wednesday that the mayor had a scheduled meeting with some Army officials Wednesday afternoon. The meeting was not specifically about the brigade’s move to Grafenwöhr, but "they probably will talk about the move, too."
Stars and Stripes’ Marcus Kloeckner contributed to this email@example.com