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HEIDELBERG, Germany — Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez stayed behind in Heidelberg as his V Corps headquarters detachment deployed last week to Iraq under another general’s leadership. He plans, according to some reports, to retire soon.

But for now, he has a new assignment: acting deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe.

The temporary appointment made in October by then-USAREUR Commander Gen. B.B. Bell means primarily that Sanchez will have staff support from USAREUR to fulfill his duties as V Corps commander, said Col. Roger King, USAREUR spokesman.

“He has duties to perform as V Corps commander, even if his troops are gone,” King said. Among those are courts-martial proceedings and award presentations of soldiers who fall under V Corps and remain in Germany or return from deployment, such as parts of the 1st Armored and Infantry Divisions. Some 4,500 soldiers will be returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sanchez also may have other duties as acting deputy commander for USAREUR, King said, including, for example, filling in at meetings when Gen. David McKiernan, U.S. Army Europe commander, can’t attend.

“It gives you a little depth to your bench,” King said.

According to a New York Times story last week, Sanchez has told senior Army officials that he plans to retire, probably this summer, rather than endure a Senate confirmation fight over any new assignment. Sanchez, the nation’s highest-ranking Hispanic officer, has spent 33 years in the Army.

Although Sanchez was being considered as late as last summer for promotion to four stars and command of the military’s operations in Latin America, the Times said, “… the legacy of Abu Ghraib and its photographs of prisoner mistreatment … dogged General Sanchez and ensured that any promotion would ignite a political storm on Capitol Hill.”

Among at least four investigations into Abu Ghraib, a review by three Army generals concluded that Sanchez, then the top commander in Iraq, had authorized interrogation procedures that were sanctioned for use only at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan. Sanchez and his deputies maintained that they authorized only practices that were consistent with the Geneva Conventions, and an Army inspector general review cleared Sanchez of any wrong-doing.

To retire at his current three-star rank, Sanchez must win Senate approval, something that is usually automatic.

Sanchez did not respond to an e-mail or phone message for comment.

Sanchez is the latest of three generals to be named a USAREUR acting deputy commander since February, when USAREUR Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. William “Kip” Ward was named U.S. security envoy to the Middle East. Although he retains the title of USAREUR deputy commander and chief of staff, Ward was approved in July for a fourth star and appointment as deputy commander of the European Command.

Since Ward’s departure, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski and Maj. Gen. David Valcourt both have served as acting deputy and chief of staff. Valcourt remains at USAREUR as chief of staff.

Another general has been appointed to the position Sanchez and Valcourt now share. Last month, Lt. Gen. Gary Speer was assigned as USAREUR deputy commander and chief of staff. Speer is now at U.S. Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga. He’s expected to arrive sometimes between February and June.

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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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